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carpenter ants and carpenter bees

Dr. Craig, from MIT writes...

Thanks for your website.  I was searching on 'carpenter ants' and found it, and was reassured by the information there.  I also have a carpenter bee, and now know what to do about her.

I especially appreciate your philosophy:

"There are no silly forms, no irritating, blinking graphics or dancing  baloney, no pop-up windows, no sounds, no off-world re-directs, no  frames, no required plug-ins, just standard 3.2 HTML."

One clarification though: do carpenter ants ever nest in the ground?

I was looking for you site because over the weekend I found ants starting to nest in foam board insulation in my basement.  In retrospect, the foam board seems like something you could use in an ant farm.  But there's no current moisture problem I've been able to find.  When I found the nest, I started baiting and spraying.  Then I tried to find an exterminator, but they all wanted to destroy all living things in the house, which seemed excessive, unnecessary, and expensive.  Then I found your page and was reassured that that really wasn't required.

To a degree, it doesn't matter what kind of ants they are, the nest in the basement must go and is dying off, but I'd like to know if these ants are carpenter ants, or some other ant that just found a convenient warm nesting spot.

They are black ants, rather large.  But they're the kind I see nesting in the ground, in dirt.  (not the small brown ones that swarm, these are much bigger).  I remember neighbors in PA having problems with carpenter ants when I was young, and remember them being bigger and nastier than these, with a red segment.  But then, I was smaller then, and everything's relative.

So, are all large black ants carpenter ants which nest in the ground as well as in trees, or are some ground ants large and black and opportunistic, or what?


And my reply....

Hi, Doc!

Hope you don't mind me putting it that way.  BTW, my daughter works right across the street from you at Millennium Pharmaceuticals!  Small world, eh?

Now to your Email.

Glad you like my philosophy!  If there's anything I hate it's any one of those!  Very distracting.  A friend of mine (an exterminator) has animated bugs running along the bottom of every page.  How crass!  Makes you feel you stepped into a cheap carnival.

Carpenter ants WILL nest in the ground.  They prefer other places, but yes they will.  And they do like it behind that foam board stuff.  If I run across that in a customer's house I always show it to him and recommend that it be taken down.  What happens, is that the foam holds moisture against the wall - a perfect environment for these little fellows.  Not only that, but termites will like it back there too.  You should take it down if you find either one.  You'll get precious little insulation value from it, and maybe more insect problems.  I also see them nest behind regular Fiberglas insulation the builder put up at box headers - does the same thing, holds moisture against the wooden box headers and creates a nice environment for them.  See it all the time.  Usually I don't mention it unless I find a problem because most people think that the insulation should be there because the builder/architect/engineer says it should.  But what the hell do they know?  They never get into crawl spaces the way I do!  I even had a builder argue with me, said ants would never nest behind Fiberglas insulation, it would irritate them too much!  What a dork!

So, I say, if you've discovered a problem there, remove it so the air can get back there and don't worry about the insulation value - we're only talking pennies here.

Yes, you probably didn't need to do all the spraying and baiting, but now that it's done, don't worry about it.  And they COULD be carpenter ants, and they also might not be.  As you said, it doesn't really matter too much, many species will nest in the same places.  Usually, the great big black ones you see on sidewalks and trees are carpenter ants.  You can really only tell for sure with about a 10 power glass, and you can't tell if they're smashed.  Or, I guess, if you're smashed.

Hope this helps to answer your questions!  If not get back to me!


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