I’ve got a woodpecker pecking my cottage siding. Do I have Ants?

Woodpeckers can do damage to your cottage. But does it mean you have carpenter ants? The short answer is maybe not.
This is something that comes up infrequently here in Muskoka, but it does happen. We get 2 or 3 calls per year by cottagers who have a woodpecker pecking the siding of their cottage, doing damage, leaving holes in siding.

Woodpecker Pecking a vent

“Why is this happening?” They ask with great concern. “Do I have Carpenter Ants in the wall of my cottage?”

There’s a good chance that no, you don’t. It is likely social or territorial drumming but that doesn’t mean you don’t have Carpenter Ants. As we all know, Carpenter Ants (and many other insects) are abundant here in Muskoka. Let me provide a little more information that you will hopefully find helpful.


Woodpeckers vary in size and range from about 7 to 14 inches in length, usually with brightly contrasting coloration. Most males have some red on the head, and black and white markings are common on many species. They have short legs with two sharpclawed backward pointed toes and stiff tail feathers that serve as a support prop. Such physical traits permit them to cling easily to trees or wood surfaces. They have stout, sharply pointed beaks and a long tongue for extracting larvae and other insects from wood crevices. Because they are dependent on trees for shelter and food, woodpeckers are commonly found within or on the fringes of wooded or forested areas. I have seen them quite a number of times myself while out on service calls. A very majestic bird if you get to see it up close.


Woodpeckers come into conflict with people when they use human dwellings in their search of food, or as a surface for territorial/social drumming, or for nest construction. Such activities not only create disturbing noises but, more significantly, may cause structural damage. Pecking damage can occur on wooden siding, eaves, or trim boards. Cedar and redwood siding seem most vulnerable, especially rough-hewn veneer-type plywoodReverse board-and-batten veneer plywood is especially prone because of gaps created as a result of the manufacturing process. These gaps can provide hidden spaces that harbour insects, which in turn, attract woodpeckers in search of food.

When searching for insects, woodpeckers leave a series of small holes all in a row, which is characteristic damage. This however does not necessarily mean there are ants or insects in the wall. You have to consider other factors when determining whether you have Carpenter Ants.

A woodpecker doing damage is not conclusive evidence of Carpenter Ants on its own. A proper Carpenter Ant inspection by an expert will determine if other conducive conditions are there. Is there moisture damage? What is the exterior landscape in the area? Are there live Ants being seen?

Exploratory pecking is commonplace and this is the usual conclusion in my experience. We once had a woodpecker who would peck on a ladder we had out back of our office in Port Carling. He would come and sit on one of the ladder rungs and tap away. Clearly there were no Ants in the ladder… He was just being territorial. The damage tends to be on houses in or near natural wooded areas and most often occurs in suburban or rural settings. Part of a woodpecker’s breeding behavior is an incessant rhythmic tapping or repetitive drumming on wood or other hard surfaces using the bill as a way of proclaiming breeding territory and social significance. Woodpeckers prefer drumming surfaces that resonate loudly.

They frequently bypass wood and use metal gutters and downspouts, television antennae, or metal rooftop ventilators. Both male and female woodpeckers drum. This activity may be annoying to household residents, especially if it starts in the early morning hours.

If you suspect you have Carpenter Ants or any other pests or Wildlife at your home or cottage in Muskoka, Parry Sound, Simcoe or Haliburton just call or email us at info@muskokapestcontrol.com or call 705.765.5199 -We are your Local Experts!

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Muskoka Pest Control has been keeping your home, cottage and business pest free for almost 30 years! Serving all of Muskoka and surrounding areas, we specialize in Pest Control, Pest Removal, Wildlife Control and Retail Products. We specialize in pests such as Carpenter Ants, Bed bugs, Wasps/Hornets, Mice, Spiders and Wasps.