ANTS! ant?

digit(ID/WA)March 12, 2014

There were carpenter ants in the framed part of my greenhouse/sunshed last year. I have just torn off the foil-covered insulation board and replaced it yesterday. Behind the insulation board in the greenhouse, what had those ants been up to? Nothing.

What damage had been done to the wood sill and studs?? None that I could see. No hole into the plywood so they didn't work their way out into the cedar exterior.

Where were they? Entirely in the foam board. And, "they" amounted to 1 ant . . . There was an area hollowed out with multiple entrance/exits. They/he riddled about 3sqft in 2 boards.

I suppose I should not complain since this is a first in about 15 years but I don't want an ant to cause me so much trouble again. I suppose he was building a nest to use this year. They don't eat wood? What do they eat? What do you do about carpenter ants?


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
bugdoctor(5 CO)

I'll take a stab at your question since I have quite a bit of experience with true carpenter ants. I am new to this forum (and to GW for that matter), but I live just outside of Boulder, Co. in the relatively small town of Lafayette. Perhaps the search feature will come in handy for all my follies! I stumbled upon the WS forum and read through the late evenings on how to grow plants in jugs. A nice woman took pity on me and has since coached me through a winter of sowing perennials. I started poking around and ran across this forum.

Here ya go...True carpenter ants are fairly large (1/2 inch or larger) black or brown colored ants. These animals often get started in areas of moist, decayed wood. Rarely will sound wood be utilized. Carpenter ants utilize wood for protection from invasion of predators as well as protection from the elements. Termites utilize wood for food. This is often confusing when you see the winged forms as they look quite similar. In my experience, when you find winged forms of carpenter ants, this is a sign of a heavy infestation, which you have not mentioned. Seeing adults foraging for food is another sign of a problem, but certainly not one ant. They eat just about any animal and vegetable matter.

These animals are social, meaning they live in nests working as a unit. Their nests are empty of sawdust with smooth excavated areas within the wood structure. They may create satellite nests in areas near their 'main nest', which is perhaps what you are experiencing, but unlikely in foam insulation. They really go for water damaged or advanced decayed wood. I would really keep an eye out for others over the course of the season. Again, really big black ants, and look for winged forms this spring or early summer. If you see that I would think about ant hunting for a nest. Otherwise, I would be less worried about any structural wood if I had not had water damage or knew of any decayed structural lumber.

To ease any concerns, I split firewood not too far from my house. Literally about 15 feet from my home. We live on a small city lot, so no space to get away from the house. I split a huge log one afternoon and hundreds of carpenter ants poured out. Hundreds! I kept a close eye through the winter around the foundation along the runner of the house for 'sawdust' from their excavation. Nothing! Three years later still no sign of them. I thought they might be living in the stacked wood, but I never have seen another. I never spray for anything, except maybe some neem oil or Palmolive for some aphids. If they were still here, I'm sure I would have seen something. I'm often more worried about the flea beetles each season than those carpenter ants.

I hope this helps.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 11:58AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

It does help, Dan! Thank You!

I am a little concerned about it being a satellite nest. There is quite a lot of moisture in the sunshed, at times. The furnace is only on for a few weeks each year and it is closed up for months through the winter. It went through several expansions but one wall has been there since 1996.

It wouldn't surprise me if there is damp wood but I didn't find any tearing into the wall. One big ant at one end of all the tunneling!! Maybe a "swarm" has reservations for next month but they will have to start all over again with a new contractor and tour guide.

Welcome to GW and RMG, Dan!


This post was edited by digit on Wed, Mar 12, 14 at 22:39

    Bookmark   March 12, 2014 at 10:38PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
bugdoctor(5 CO)

Thanks for the warm welcome!
I suspect the foam was excavated since there wasn't any decayed wood to find. Hopefully your quick response will deter any further mining, though others may keep looking for rotten, decayed wood if they are arriving for a nearby, larger main nest.

I guess another something to keep your eyes on the lookout for. Good luck and glad I could help out.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 10:05AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

I bet your Ant is really ANTS, Digit!

I don't know about carpenter ants, but I have tiny black ants in my yard that "don't exist" from mid-summer thru fall, but every spring they swarm out of "somewhere," and there are millions of them "piled up" on the grass or soil! I'll look out the window and see what looks like a little "pile" of potting soil that somehow was accidentally dumped on the grass, and when I go out to explore the situation I discover it's a writhing "clump" of ants! And they ARE tiny, so there really are MILLIONS of them. They have so undermined the soil under my sidewalk where it meets my little front porch that the sidewalk is now at least a couple inches lower than it originally was, and it's now a BIG step to get up onto the porch!

From what I can figure out, it looks to me like they "thrived" for years under---wait for it---the landscape fabric and rock mulch the previous owners had put in! When I was removing all that "STUFF" I found huge nests of them, at least I found the hundreds of tunnels that went down into the, apparently, HUGE cities! They had even eaten huge holes in the (nasty!) landscape fabric! And that stuff is virtually indestructible!

When I first found them I thought: No big problem! Funny me!!! At first I just took household insect spray and saturated the tunnels and soil around them. They stood there, stuck their tongues out at me, and laughed at me! After a couple years I discovered that dumping (gallons!) of ammonia down the tunnels helped--kinda! Except for the time I poured it around some HOT stepping stones when I killed the grass near the stones, it seemed to actually help the grass and plants, so I kept pouring--but there were ALWAYS more ants!

A few years ago I started using Bug-B-Gon Max on the, also large, omnipresent population of earwigs I've had ever since moving in here. For a couple years they were eating more of my veggies than I was! Since that stuff was working for the earwigs I started sprinkling it in, on, and around the ants and tunnels whenever I found them, and that, finally, seems to be really helping! I'll know more for sure in about a month when they should start Erupting again! I'm not expecting them to be GONE this year, but I do expect them to be noticeably "diminished!" Hoping in a couple years I'll be able to mostly rid my yard of them!

If I were you I'd do some Serious Watching this spring, so if they really are there--in a huge city somewhere far down in the underworld--you'll find them as soon as possible and be able to start to "do something" about them. The longer they're there, the worse they'll be. I have NO doubt about that!

Good luck,

P.S. HI, BugDoc! Welcome to RMG! Nice to see somebody around here who might know something about "bugs!" If you have time, go to the Who's Here in 2014 thread and introduce yourself. We're glad you found us!

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 3:36PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
E-mail tree?
So, I was thinking, after the difficulty I had getting...
ZachS. z5 Littleton, CO
Like to See What is Happening
... in Rocky Mountain weather compared to "normals." Choose...
Batten down the hatches!
Hi all, Well, NOAA just changed the Front Range (and...
Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado
Lettuce without direct sun?
Hi, everyone! I'm thinking of putting a raised Bed...
What are Your Plans
... for the yard and garden, this year? Zach has some...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™