Now that the warm and dry weather is here, the carpenter ants are now clearly visible to any homeowner that has them in their tree. When temps are cool, these ants tend to lay low, but since we are in the dog days of summer, their activity has taken a big upturn. They are usually noticed by their copious amounts af sawdust, or frass, piling up at the base of the tree under their primary exit holes. This frass may also be noticed speckled on the bark or in the piled up in the crotches of the tree. The ants are usually found crawling all over the lower stem of the tree, as they are out searching for food, coming from and going into their nest.
Carpenter ants do not kill trees. They eat dead or inactive wood, such as the kind of wood in the heart of the tree, or a dead tree laying on the ground, or your house. They will not eat through healthy, living tree tissue. For them to gain access into a tree, they need an opening, such as a cavity or an old pruning wound- with such an opening, they will tunnel into the middle of the tree to create a colony. Once inside the tree, they can be very difficult to remove. This is why homeowners call a professional arborist to deal with them.
In my experience, red oak and any cherry variety seem to be preferred hosts in this part of the state, while pine and other species can also be favored. Spraying the trunk is one method of trying to control these invaders, but can be minimally effective, as it will only impact the ants that are out on the surface. To control the colony, a bait gel is applied to the tree that the ants can take back to feed to the colony. This approach works very well, and is what Mayer Tree Service will recommend for your tree if you have this problem.
If the damage is minimal, the tree should be fine- as mentioned, carpenter ants do not kill trees. But what they can do is structurally weaken trees. If a tree has had years of uncontrolled feeding, the ants will have likely hollowed out the inside of the tree, which will make the tree more prone to failure. As they work the inside of the tree, secondary pests can begin to work the tree, such as woodpeckers looking to feed on the ants, or squirrels and other rodents looking to use the new cavities for nests of their own, enlarging the openings and the cavity itself. Not to mention, if ants are a problem in your trees, there is a good chance they could be a problem in your house or garage too.
Please feel free to call or email us if you would like more information regarding the potential damage and possible treatment soution for your landscape.