Can Ants Damage A Tree?
Trees have the ability to attract all kinds of critters, some of these are quite harmless, while others can lead to significant damage and even death to trees. Ants happen to be an insect that can live peacefully with trees, even protecting them from other more destructive creepy crawlers that might be bent on eating a tree’s leaves, or they themselves can create issues with trees. To know if the ants you see trekking up and down the bark of your trees are good or bad, it really depends on what kind of ant it is. If you’re unsure whether your tree has an ant infestation in Portland, OR, call Urban Forest Pro and we’ll send someone out to take a look.
Regular Ants Versus Carpenter Ants
The first step of figuring out if you have the kind of ant that requires some sort of intervention is being able to identify whether it is a regular (Formica ant), or a carpenter ant.
Regular ants pose no threat to your trees. They are smaller than carpenter ants, usually measuring around ⅕ of an inch in length. They are black and their head is a somewhat circular shape. Although it can be hard to distinguish due to their smaller size, the thorax of the black ant is also ridged and uneven.
Carpenter ants, on the other hand, vary in size and color depending on the species, but are typically significantly larger than black ants; usually measuring in around ¼-½ of an inch. Because there are different species of carpenter ants, their coloring will range from black to orange but they usually carry a reddish hue. The body or thorax of these ants is more symmetrical and evenly rounded than that of the black ant, and their heads are heart-shaped. Carpenter ants also have sharp mandibles that can be used for biting and chewing through material, such as wood.
The Problem With Carpenter Ants
As the name implies, carpenter ants live in wood. They make their homes by creating galleries in the wood through means of chewing tunnels. They don’t actually eat the wood though, as they chew they create piles of sawdust, but as they work away at building their nests they remove necessary material from the trees to stay healthy.
Although carpenter ants are problematic, they are not the initial reason that your tree is suffering. Carpenter ants are drawn to moisture and hollow points within a tree. A tree is already in a state of decay when carpenter ants begin to colonize it. This decay could be caused by any number of issues, such as disease or environmental factors. Carpenter ants simply speed up that process or keep a tree from being able to fight off that process and regain strength again.
What To Do If Your Trees Have Carpenter Ants
If you notice an influx of ants on any of your trees and you are able to identify them as carpenter ants it is important to take action. The biggest problem with ants being drawn to a tree on your property is that they can quickly make their way over to some other wooden structure that you wouldn’t want them tunneling through, such as a garage or your house.
Trying to seal up any of the cavities that you notice the ants coming in and out of is futile, since the ants will simply find somewhere else to go; whether it be another point on that tree or moving onto a different one. The easiest way to deal with an ant problem in your trees is to spray with an ant killer. Boric acid or an insecticide like ant powder sprayed around the base of your tree can be quite effective. As the ants touch the poison they are killed, and since ants will eat their dead, many others will be taken down when they eat the ants that have already been poisoned. This approach will take a little bit of time to work since the ants have to naturally migrate through the sprayed area and the poison will need to be reapplied after rainfall as it does get washed away.
Another faster more powerful option is to find their entrance spot on the infested tree and to set off a bug bomb right into the cavity. You will need to have a can of ant spray ready in hand after setting off the bug bomb as the ants will come pouring out of the tree. This is the point that you will need to spray them. This method requires a little bit of coordination and quick timing but can rid you of a massive amount of ants in a very short period of time.
Urban Forest Pro Can Help
If you feel that you have a tree or trees that have suffered significant damage from an ant infestation in Portland, OR any of our ISA certified arborists can provide you with a free evaluation. We can come to your property and determine whether your tree can be saved or whether it will need to be removed. Contact us today to set up your free consultation.