Most people think of termites when they think of insects that live in wood. But there are other kinds of wood-nesting insects. Unlike termites, carpenter ants and carpenter bees do not eat wood. They simply nest in it. But they are still a problem because they can do a lot of damage while making their nests.
Carpenter ants are easy to spot. They are large and reddish-brown or black. Workers are from 1/4 to 1/2 inch long. The workers have strong jaws and will bite when disturbed. Indoors the ants feed on sweets and other foods.
Colonies of carpenter ants are started by mated queens. The queen seeks damp wood for her nest. Once started, the nest is moved into dry, sound wood. The ants carve out their living quarters. They keep them clean and smooth. Sawdust from the nest is carried outside and dumped. If you see large ants around the house, beware! It is usually the first sign of a nest. The nest may not be inside, however. It may be in a stump or hollow tree near the house. But who knows when they might decide to move in.
Wood that has become damp should be watched carefully. Places that come under attack are porch pillars and supporting timbers. Other places to look are sills, joists, studs, and window and door trim. It is a good idea to poke the dampened wood with a sharp object. If the wood gives way and ants come tumbling out, the nest likely been found.
Besides carpenter ants, there are carpenter bees. Carpenter bees look a lot like bumblebees. They range in size from 1/4 to an inch long. Some are as large as bumblebees. However, carpenter bees have bare, shiny abdomens. The abdomens of bumblebees are covered with rows of thick yellow hair.
Carpenter bees cut an entrance hole across the grain of the wood. Then, they build their homes with the grain of the wood. They usually build their nests in dead twigs or branches. The damage caused by one or two bees is slight. But if they are not stopped, they can cause much damage over a long period.
By watching the bees, the nests can usually be found. It’s good idea to stop them before they spread and cause problems. The only good way to control pests is to poison their nests.