Carpenter Ant Damage
Summary: Is it a carpenter ant damage or termite damage? Both dig into wood. Both can ruin your day. This article will give you some easy ways to identify what's eating your wood.
Pest control experts are often called upon to identify the cause of apparent pest damages to property. Half the time the pest has left the scene of the crime and the only evidence remaining is the damage done. However, a knowledgeable professional should be able to determine the cause simply by examining the damaged wood.
Let's look at how carpenter ants attack wood. True to their name, carpenter ants will tunnel into any wood that suits their purpose, but they don't actually eat the wood. They only work with the wood, creating tunnels and galleries in which they raise their young. The damage may occur indoors or outdoors.
To the layperson carpenter ants and termites look alike and behave in the same way. They both cause damage to wood. However, there is an easy way to tell the two apart. If carpenter ants are the culprits the damaged wood will be free of mud and wood particles and the galleries will be smooth. If the damaged is ragged, thin layers of riddled wood, mostly packed with drying dirt, you can assume you have found termite damage.
Here are some more tips to identify if carpenter ants have damaged your trees:
¢ Look for frass. This is a pile comprised of soil, dead insects and wood shavings that resemble sawdust. Frass is usually in a small pile shaped like a cone. Similar to your children leaving piles of clothes in their bedrooms, carpenter ants leave piles of frass by their nests. However, the tunnels that carpenter ants create are usually hollow and smooth, in order to give the ants plenty of room to crawl. Their tunnels are extremely clean and lack frass.
Though carpenter ants can cause damage to healthy trees, moist wood is especially susceptible to damage from these ants. Rotting tree trunks, stumps, or roots are often infested with carpenter ants. Healthier, more solid wood is harder for the ants to chew through with their mandibles (commonly known as jaws).
Trees attacked by carpenter ants are usually under stress. The tree is most likely decaying and carpenter ants are just cashing in on the situation. The tree's primary problem is moisture or decay. The carpenter ants are not the cause of the tree's decline.
Carpenter ants build two types of colonies; parent and satellite. The parent colony is the main colony and must be in an area of moist wood. This colony will most likely be outdoors in trees, stumps or firewood. Satellite colonies can survive indoors. While foraging for food, carpenter ants can find their way into your home and get cozy and comfortable. Again, moisture is the key to their survival. Discovery and elimination of the moisture is the sure-fire way to fight a carpenter ant infestation.
Dust formulations of insecticide are an effective way of treating carpenter ants outdoors. Make sure to use an insecticide that is specifically labeled for carpenter ants and for safe use on trees. Be aware that carpenter ant infestations can be reoccurring, so you may have to reapply the insecticide every few months or so. Unfortunately, this may be the only efficient solution to getting rid of carpenter ants outdoors. If the tree is in full decline, removal of the tree and stump may be your final option.
Remember, the carpenter ants are Nature's way of decomposing dead wood. If the ants are doing their job and not invading your home, leave them do their work.
Click here to watch my short video on how to control ants.