Ants are a common indoor household pest, but did you know that they can also infest your trees and other outdoor features? Ants are so small in stature that it’s hard to notice details when examining them during everyday life, but if you were to look a little closer, you may notice some ants are larger than others, and some ants have different features than others. For example, some ants have wings, while other ant types have wings just during certain times of the year.
The type of ant that infests trees is a carpenter ant. If you notice your tree has a line of ants traveling up the tree trunk and burrowing inside, your tree may have a carpenter ant infestation. You may wonder how to get rid of carpenter ants so your tree has a chance at survival. Mr. Tree, your arborist experts, has some tips on what to do when you notice a carpenter ant infestation in your trees.
What Is a Carpenter Ant?
Carpenter ants get their name from their affinity for living in and burrowing through wood quite quickly. Carpenter ants are active during the spring and summer months. Colonies of carpenter ants can be quite large, running from 20,000 to about 50,000 ants in a colony at a time. They burrow in areas that are high in moisture to be able to lay their eggs. They’re typically found in areas with rotted wood and can be found both indoors and outdoors.
Indoors, you can find carpenter ants in those areas with high moisture and rotted wood, such as behind bathroom tiles, sinks and tubs, and other high-moisture areas. Outdoors, you can find them burrowing in trees that have a lot of decay, which makes it much easier to burrow through the wood, and typically that’s where the high moisture content is found. Carpenter ants don’t eat the wood. They actually get nourishment from eating insects, both dead and alive, and they’re drawn to sugars. These ants burrow through the already decayed materials, making long tunnels and pathways to support their colonies and lay their nests where it’s moist. These tunnels can cause further damage to an already decaying tree, which can be fatal to the tree, so it’s imperative to catch the infestation as quickly as soon and eradicate the infestation to save the tree and to stop the ants from spreading.
How to Detect an Ant Infestation
The first step to removing a carpenter ant infestation is early detection. So how do you know if your tree is infested with carpenter ants? Since these ants don’t eat the wood but merely burrow through it, you may see some wood shavings on the ground at the opening of the nest. You may also see swarms of ants around the base of a tree, possibly moving in and out from underground. That’s a good indicator that there may be more ants inside the tree.
If you’re unsure of an infestation and need help determining whether to proceed with treatments to remove them, you can contact Mr. Tree for assistance. Having a tree expert examine your trees to determine the health of the tree and whether you have an infestation will be valuable in determining the next steps.
How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants
Once you find an infestation, you will want to start on carpenter ant removal quickly. The key is to keep the ants from moving from one tree to the next, or worse, from going inside your home and causing damage indoors. Simply cutting down the infested tree isn’t a viable option, as the tree was merely in the right place at the right time and was already decaying from a variety of factors that had nothing to do with the infestation. Cutting down the infested tree will just result in the colony finding a new home, which can mean another tree gets infested, and so on until you have no more trees left, or they can come into your home. There are a few different methods when choosing how to get rid of carpenter ants.
Step 1: Find the Nest
The first and most important step is to locate the carpenter ant nest. Look around for where the ants are entering the tree. See if you can find any of the holes they use to enter the nest. If you can’t find any of their entrance points, try scraping the bark a bit at the tree base to try and find a hole that could be slightly buried in the bark folds. If you see lots of ants coming out of a hole in the tree, that’s most likely one of their entrance points to their colony.
Step 2: Apply Insecticide or Use Ant Bait
Once the nest is located, apply insecticide to eradicate the nest at its source. Insecticide can be in the form of a powder or a liquid. If using the powder, spread the insecticide evenly around the entrance hole to the colony. When the ants touch the insecticide, they will die, and the other ants will try to carry the bodies of the dead ants back into their nest, which will poison them as well. If using the liquid insecticide, spray the nest liberally and then spray the entire tree trunk from bottom to top to get any ants that may try to escape the soaked colony.
The goal of insecticide is to kill the queen inside the nest. Once the queen has been killed, the rest of the colony cannot survive.
Another method is using ant bait traps along the ant trails. This can help remove satellite nests also that may not be directly inside the infested tree.
Step 3: Assess the Tree’s Health
Once the colony is removed, if the tree is too far gone to salvage from decay, it is best to remove the dying tree, in order to prevent reinfestation or the risk of the tree falling.
If you would like help from certified arborist experts, don’t hesitate to contact Mr. Tree for help with all of your tree needs.