View Full Version : Carpenter ant's NOT wood destroying?

Robert Jones
10-18-2007, 07:35 PM
I had read on a different post someone mentioned that carpenter ant's are not wood destroying organisms. I really think this should be brought to the forfront before someone learns a lesson the hard way. Carpenter ant's are a wood destroying organism and cause massive damage to wood structure if left untreated. They prefer soft or rotted wood but will destroy sound wood as well. Here is a quick excerpt from the U of Missouri;

"The greatest concern with carpenter ants is that they will establish satellite nests in structural wood. This can cause serious damage. They will establish these nests in areas such as the roof trim, siding, rafters, joists, sheathing, decks, porches, steps, sills, subflooring, doors and window frames. They may also establish nests inside hollow areas, like hollow doors or small voids produced during construction. Most often, they establish nests in areas of the structure where the wood is moist or has been damaged by moisture. They can also move from decaying portions of the wood into sound lumber in the process of enlarging the nest."

Everyone have a good day inspecting.

Rob Jones

Rick Hurst
10-18-2007, 08:08 PM
I call them a wood destroying insects because thats what the Texas Structural Pest Control Board has them listed as on my WDI reports.

Robert, I've been in the PC / Termite business now for 20+ years and to be honest I've yet to see what I would call severe damages by carpenter ants.

Most of the carpenter ant infestation sites are actually more damaged from water than from what the ants have done to it. Most of the time the ants move into an area which is already somewhat damaged and chew out galleries for nesting sites.

Most carpenter ant infestations in my opinion are related to having too much shrubbery in contact with the structure or having an area that is having a constant moisture source.

Most ant sites are around window sills and around the eaves. Ever notice how many window ledges have shrubs or limbs in contact with them? The ants crawl right of the foliage onto the structure. Then you have sprinkler systems spraying directly on the structure which can worsen the situation.

In my opinion, carpenter ants are easily controlled if you first take care of taking out their "highways" to the structure.

Ever hear of a product called Advance Carpenter Ant bait. It works great, but is not a one time application product. You have to bait a few times and protect the bait from moisture. I've had excellent results with it.

Another cheap method is to mix up a 50/50 mixture of boric acid and powdered sugur together. I wet it to make like a paste and spread in on the areas or trails where the ants are present. Its works great and not detrimental to the enviroment. Days are over of the PC jockeys jumping out of a truck and hosing down everything in site. It doesn't work anyway.

Most people don't realize but less than 3% of actual pesticide comes into contact with an insect. The rest runs off into our lakes and groundwater and elsewhere.


Rick Bunzel
10-18-2007, 09:29 PM
In Washington State Carpenter Ants are considered wood destroying organisms and need to be reported as such. I agree that they don't actually consume the wood but remove it to create galleries.


Richard Moore
10-18-2007, 11:35 PM
...I've been in the PC / Termite business now for 20+ years and to be honest I've yet to see what I would call severe damages by carpenter ants.

Rick, would you say that is because they only excavate for nesting, wander around foraging for actual food, and unlike termites, the homeowner would typically notice the activity and call for treatment long before the colony got big enough to do major structural damage?

Carpenter ants are an issue around here but I don't consider them a "scary" one. We are fortunate that whole-house-eating variety termites are rare around here (global warming might eventually change that :) ). Rot Fungus, on the other hand, could be our state "organism"...after slugs!

Aaron Miller
10-19-2007, 04:25 AM
Though I have not personally observed “structural damage” (that is to say damage to the framing) caused by carpenter ants in urban areas I have seen significant damage caused to house framing in rural and lake houses in North Texas. So then, to say that they do not cause “structural damage” is, in my experience, not the case.

With the advent of foam insulation, i.e. extruded and expanded polystyrene, et al., carpenter ants have a new and much more desirable material in which to nest. I have seen significant damage caused to EIFS-clad homes due to carpenter ant infestations. Additionally, I have observed damage to newer homes with sprayed-on foam insulation. Particularly susceptible are those where the foam is sprayed in the rafter cavities. We all know that roofs don’t leak. Once the water enters the rafter cavity and begins its destructive work on the wood, the carpenter ants are attracted and the destructions escalate.

When you consider that foam insulation board constitutes the drainage plane on many brick veneer homes you can see that infestation of and destruction of these sheathings constitute a rather significant defect of the structure. Put another way these ants do indeed cause structural damage.

There are about 23 species of these ants in North America. Of these at least 6 are considered by entomologists to be structural pests. See: “Field Guide for the Management of Structure-Infesting Ants”, Stoy A Hedges, and ”Handbook of Pest Control” by Arnold Mallis. So then to say that these are not structural pests is probably not a true statement.

And as an aside: I often hear pest control techs referring to the presence of carpenter ant frass as an indication of infestation. What they are seeing is not frass, or feces, but sawdust and dead ant body parts that are expelled from the nest by the ants. Anyone with a loupe (and real inspectors carry them) can see that often this “frass” consists of chewed up foam board and not sawdust. You’ll often see it in windowsills due to the fact that the windows are not properly flashed. This leads to moisture intrusion, accumulation, wood rot and all of the other attractants that these ants desire.


Bruce Lunsford
10-19-2007, 06:23 AM
You have to look at how your state defines it. In FL, they are NOT considered WDI's and are specifically not to be reported as such. When I was in IN, they were to be reported as WDI's.

Rick Hurst
10-19-2007, 06:33 AM
Rick, would you say that is because they only excavate for nesting, wander around foraging for actual food, and unlike termites, the homeowner would typically notice the activity and call for treatment long before the colony got big enough to do major structural damage?

Exactly Richard. Due to the homeowner actually seeing the ants and calling for PC for treatment is one reason I believe we don't see some much actual damages. At least that is my opinion and experience.

Now take a home which someone only visits periodically like a lake home or a vacation home, one may see further damages.

Aaron is correct on his comment about frass. We are now hearing complaints from clients when they call that the first thing that they notice is the white debris in the window sills which is the foam insulation board.

I'm sure that if not treated and just ignored, carpenter ants over time could cause some structural damages. Its just not been my experience in the last 20 years of not seeing so.

Another thing I have not mentioned that attracts carpenter ants is aphids. They produce a sugary type substance known as a honeydew, that the ants go for like like crazy. It their drug of choice.

So you need to treat your landscape for aphids too. :D


Ken Amelin
10-19-2007, 07:56 AM
In New England carpenter ants ARE wood destroying insects AND they do significant amount of damage.

According to "Common-Sense Pest Controll" by Olkowski & Daar a recommended study by the NPMA, there are nine species common in various regions of the country. The largest "The Black Carpenter Ant" is commonly found in cooler forested regions of the country, including NE, Mid-Atlantic, and Pacific NW.


"Because these ants were originally forest inhabitants that nested in damp, decaying wood, it is not surprising that they are a pest equal in significance to termites", in moist forested areas."

"Carpenter Ants (Camponotus spp) are amoung the most efficient wood destroying insects in the United States"

I hope this answers your question - They are WDI.

Rick Hurst
10-19-2007, 09:35 PM
Enough about the carpenter ants. Lets learn about how drugs affect the spider world.

YouTube - Spiders On Drugs (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHzdsFiBbFc)