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carpenter ants  RSS feed

 
                          
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Hi, this spring I started seeing carpenter ants inside my house.  Any organic tips for irradication or management or perhaps living alongside them in harmony? Thanks!
 
steward
Posts: 25174
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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I think dealing with carpenter ants is a big challenge.

DE will work on the ants you see, but the trick is that there are usually far more ants that you don't see. 

I do remember that carpenter ants will make a home out of wood that has gotten wet - do you have any water damaged wood in your home?

I saw a fantastic presentation by paul stamets a few months ago.  I swear that guy is saving the world four different ways at the same time.  Anyway, part of his presentation was about how he found a fungus that ants think is the most delicious thing ever - so delicious, that they feed it to their queen.  And all the ants that eat it die.  Take a look at this http://www.beyondpesticides.org/infoservices/pesticidesandyou/Winter06-07/fungi.pdf

The only down side is that I don't think the stuff is available for sale yet. 

So!  Moving on!

Do you see any sawdust piles in your house?

Do you see any rotten wood outside your house?

This is a good time to collect information and understanding.  One thing to try is to put some honey on some masking tape after dark.  Then wait and watch the ant take it back to the nest.  If you can find the nest, and get and idea of what is going on there, that will be a big help.

 
paul wheaton
steward
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Do you see the ants outside?  Do you have chickens?

 
                          
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No 'sawdust' found inside. No chickens. No water damaged wood in my house .

I have not seen ants outside...

However, I strategicall but ignorantly stacked firewood up against my house and it has gotten wet from a snow over the winter - but it is not rotten.  I'm not sure if moving the pile is going to be enough to get rid of the ants....

Very cool about the Staments findings - I've been trying to get into one of his courses and it looks like November I will be able to!

<thanks!>
 
paul wheaton
steward
Posts: 25174
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Move that wood!

Wet wood is enough.  Move it far from the house!

That might be enough.  But just to be sure, make sure you apply lots of observation.  Ask everyone in your house to keep an eye out for carpenter ants.

Your brain, plus knowledge, is the key to protecting your home from damage.  It is possible that the ants you have seen are just coming from the wood pile, in which case there is nothing you need to worry about.

 
                              
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Hi all, newbie here 

I have lots of permaculture questions, but the most urgent item right now is the carpenter ant nest in our wall.  Can this be dealt with in a not-harmful-to-humans manner?

We've seen winged ants the last two winters.  Last summer we found a nest over the garage (and there's a fire wall between the garage and house) and sprayed it with Lambda cyhalothrin (Hot Shot).  This winter we found more large winged ants in the same spots as last year, in the closet on the other side of where the nest was (although there's a fire wall...), directly below that in the kitchen, and in the bathroom connected to the closet.

And the last two nights we've heard them excavating in the short wall between the tub and the shower in the bathroom. An INSIDE WALL!!! Although, it's touching an outside wall, same side of the house where the first nest was (yards away though.)


Thoughts on all of this? We have two small kids, so leaving bait out doesn't seem wise.  Do I really need to call Orkin?  My husband would like to drill a hole in the grout between the tiles and dust diatomaceous earth into the nest to erradicate them.  We have also been looking at www.carpenterants.com and studying their info. Does anyone have anything to add to what info is posted there?

One of the suggestions is to erradicate as much wood as possible in the immediate area of the house and replace it with lawn. The back of our house is 40 ft from a forest wetland that we would like to avoid dozering under to create a larger buffer. 



Thanks so much for any and all info.


 
Posts: 395
Location: northern california, 50 miles inland from Mendocino, zone 7
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I can't advise you on pesticides, but I've remodeled several houses in washington, oregon and california and every carpenter ant nest I've found was because of moisture getting in through the roof or siding, or a leak around a window.    You may have structural damage such as parts of studs  missing.    Its always repairable and ants don't spread in my experience like termites but stay more localized.    As long as plants and wood debris are not right against the house and there is air circulation, I don't think a lawn would make much difference.  Clear out any rotting wood near or under the house.   
 
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
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Making sure your home is dry and using DE is a devastatingly good combo. DE can probably stay effective inside your walls for hundreds of years, you just have to get it there and whomever tears it down will need a respirator.
 
                    
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Paul Stamets (mycologist) found a way to culture a particular fungus that will do a number on ants. Usually, ants are very paranoid about certain types of spores, and they will kill members of the colony who return contaminated. He has a variety of a fungus that has delayed spore formation - the ants carry the mycelium into the colony no problem, it grows and makes spores there, and the fungus then parasitizes the ants.

He patented that particular strain, but I don't think he has commercialized it yet.

Mycotrol is a commercial product made from a related species of fungi. It controls a variety of insect pests (I used it on a dog tick outbreak inside, and it seemed to work). Not sure if that could be put to work, given the ants aversion to spores... need more research!!
 
                                
Posts: 55
Location: Savannah, GA
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You may also be able to find the nest (or at least get closer to it) by following the flying ones.

Check the attic for small leaks from the roof. Water can follow a beam to a spot you would never imagine. I've even seen water seep uphill (!) on a roof joist, drawn by capillary action.

As far as drilling through the grout - in almost all cases it would be easier to get into the wall from the other side of the wall. Do you know without a doubt what is behind the tile? Drywall is easy to drill through, but backerboard not so much, and a couple of inches of mortar much less so. You are possibly creating future problems with the tile staying put by disturbing the wall. Since the ants are in the wall by the tub that may mean that your tile job is leaking anyway. An invisible leak from a tub can rot out an amazing amount of wall and floor.

How serious this all is depends on what your house is made of, especially the foundation. How old is the house? Which floor is the problem bathroom on?

 
gardener
Posts: 856
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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I did a bunch of research a while back and ended up hiring out a low dose insecticide sprayed on the foundation wall.

One correction (i think?) on previous posts.. Most species can have two types of nests... the mother nest is in wet wood and contains the queen and eggs which need moisture.  Workers then carry pupa to satellite nests that can be several hundred feet from the mother nest and are built in dry warm locations (like your house)... there the pupa hatch into winged ones and fly off to make new nests (sure sight in spring is lots of ants indoors).

Workers are active on warm nights at dusk.  THe workers follow scent trails, but space themselves out so you won't see a bucket brigade.  Tracking workers back may give you an idea of the mother nest and how they are entering and exiting your house (if the mother nest isn't in your house).

Its an ugly business... amny days I'd rather live in a shack.

I am looking forward to the Stamets patent.


 
Posts: 57
Location: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
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Consider trying WD40.

I posted my solution in another thread, but just in case, here are the Cliff Notes:  carpenter ants like damp/moist wood, if you have them, you have a problem that likely includes some sort of leak.  The Carpenter Ants tunnel the wood, creating "galleries" to live in, store their food, raise their young and hibernate until it gets nice and warm in spring.

Neither DE or Borax are harm free, in fact the first is quite dangerous if inhaled, and/or absorbed through the skin.  The second is literally toxic if inhaled or ingested, for insects, mammals and humans alike and is generally what is found in most commercial baits (boric acid) combined with a liquid that is sweet - a perfect attractant to dogs etc.

My recent success has been with WD40, a not so environmentally friendly product (as it is petroleum based) which can also be toxic if inhaled in sufficient quantities, but it sure did a number on the influx here.  They emerged at the beginning of the week, by Wednesday we were literally killing hundreds and hundreds (3-4 with one splat of the fly swatter) each day.  As we are in a rental property, with 11 dogs, our options were limited and I did not want the landlord calling in the Pest Control guys to spray/fog/inject who knows what 18 inches from the only door the dogs use to access the stairs to go to the yard.

Watched the ants, pinpointed where they kept emerging from, stuck the WD40 nozzle up there and let fly.  Did this 2-3 times Thursday, again yesterday, and today I have only found 11 on the upper stair landing where they were swarming in the hundreds.  Only to discover a second swarm down on the Patio today.  Squashed them all and watched, pinpointed the entrance, stuck in the nozzle and seem to have nailed it there - only seen a handful down there since and it has been five hours.

I used the same method on wasps at night (both paper and ground dwellers), and the next day, nothing flying, a few crawling, knocked down the nest, swept up the dead on the ground and burned the lot (I assume they insects are poisoned and not safe for other creatures to eat); dug up the wasp nest and tossed all dirt and bugs into the fire also.
 
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