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HOME IMPROVEMENT : Eliminating Wood-Boring Ants, Bees

July 03, 1993|From Associated Press

Carpenter ants and carpenter bees have one thing in common: their love for tunneling into wood. Following is information about both insects.

CARPENTER ANTS:

General Characteristics

Carpenter ants are black or brownish in color and may reach more than one-half inch in length. They don't eat wood, as termites do, but they can still do serious damage to a house. They tunnel into moist wood to make complex nests. Deep inside, the queen lays vast numbers of eggs, while the workers range afield gathering food for her and her offspring.

Although sometimes mistaken for termites, they are easy to distinguish. Termites have straight bodies and antennae. The termite worker is gray-white. Winged termites are dark and have equal-sized fore and hind wings. Carpenter ants, in contrast, are dark in color and have narrow, pinched waists and elbowed antennae. Winged types have hind wings that are shorter than the fore wings.

Porches, roofs, columns or any wood exposed to wetness is vulnerable. To find their nests, look for piles of sawdust outside their entrance holes. Their presence is a warning that you have rotting wood in the attic, under floors or elsewhere in your house.

How to Exterminate

Carpenter Ants

Don't try drowning the ants by flooding their galleries with water because this will lead to further complications. To get rid of carpenter ants, kill the reproductive ants in the nest. Blow boric acid powder into the nest with a squeeze bottle. If the nest is inaccessible, drill sloping holes above the infested area and blow in boric acid powder or a commercial insecticide recommended for ants. Effective ant bait is also available: Look for the kind that contains disease virus--the workers carry it in to feed (and infect) the queen and the young.

After eliminating the ants, replace the faulty wood. To discourage future infestation, caulk exterior cracks, weatherstrip windows and doors and eliminate moisture problems. Trim tree branches that touch the house. Clear away wet and rotting wood in the yard, including tree stumps. Keep woodpiles away from the house, unclog gutters and replace decayed wood. Inspect all firewood before bringing it into the house; ants may hitchhike under the bark.

On the West Coast, satellite colonies--ones that form away from the queen--develop quickly, even in sound wood, and require professional extermination.

CARPENTER BEES:

General Characteristics

Carpenter bees have a nasty habit: They bore tunnels into wooden siding, door frames, windowsills, outdoor furniture and the face boards of porches. They often lurk behind a roof's fascia or other wood trim. They prefer unfinished, rough-surfaced wood.

Carpenter bees look like big bumblebees but rarely sting. Some species are black with areas of yellow; other types vary from black to green or purplish in color, with white, yellow or red markings.

Female bees excavate egg galleries by boring into the wood. The galleries continue inward, then turn to run parallel to the grain of the wood. The bees often reuse and enlarge old galleries in the same structure where they hatched as young.

Because carpenter bees nest individually, the damage starts slowly. Look for piles of sawdust under their entrance holes, which are about half an inch in diameter.

How to Get Rid of Carpenter Bees

Exterminate the bees as soon as you notice them. When you see a bee emerge from a hole, squirt it with rubbing alcohol from a hand-pump sprayer; it kills quickly. After dark in early summer, when the bees are less active, spray the nest holes with a commercial wasp or hornet aerosol spray.

To repair damage to the wood, a few days after spraying, blow diatomaceous earth into the hole to flush out any remaining insects that may possibly remain. Then seal the hole with caulking compound, wood putty or a dowel and paint the wood.

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