Guide to Ants and TermitesKnow What Could be Living Inside Your Walls
Here we will attempt to answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding evidence and treatment of termites as well as specific ants that are commonly found living inside the walls of homes.
First, what are we looking at here?
It’s important to accurately identify what the material is that’s appearing in your house. Drywood Termite droppings are often mistaken for dirt or sand. This variety of termite creates very small holes in areas where they are feeding and eject the colony’s fecal matter through these openings. The reoccurring presence of termite fecal pellets is a sure sign of infestation. Look closely at the material, if it is all the exact same shape and size, with very little other types of material mixed in, it is likely you have a termite problem. Conversely, if upon close inspection it’s clear there are a variety of materials present, and of different shapes and sizes, in all likelihood, it is dirt that is accumulating in your home and this may be from ants or some other issue.
Drywood Termite Pellets
Where exactly is it located?The exact location of the “dirt pile” can also be an important clue as to the culprit. Baseboards and windowsills can collect small amounts of dirt over the normal course of daily life. However, if the dirt appears to be coming out from within the window frame or from behind the baseboard, you’re likely looking at something more significant than just what the wind blew in. If the substance appears to be sticking together and to the wall, as opposed to just having fallen there, this too can be a sign of something more nefarious. Subterranean Termites, unlike their Drywood Termite cousins, need a moist environment to survive, similar to what they find underground. For this reason, Subterranean Termites build mud tubes along the surface of the object they feed on to insulate themselves from the dryer surrounding air. If this material is pushed through cracks where the window frame meets the wall or along the trim board and door frames, this is a sign of a Subterranean Termite. Subterranean Termites are different from the Drywood Termites mentioned above and do damage much more quickly. Subterranean termite mud tubes will likely contain both soil and termite feces so it will not have the same uniform consistent shape, and it is also more likely to be sticking to the wall instead of falling to the ground.
Ants bringing piles of dirt into a home from underneath the baseboards
Just plain old dirt on the floor?
Though the collection of dirt and debris around doors and windows is a common occurrence, the consistent buildup of these materials is typically a sign of a pest problem. Some ants such as Fire Ants (Solenopsis Invicta) and Big Headed Ants (Pheidole Megacephala) will often bring dirt into homes in an attempt to nest in the walls of the structure. Big Headed Ants, in particular, are becoming increasingly common. These small reddish-brown ants regularly cause panic among homeowners mistaking their frass or excavated dirt for evidence of termites. These ants will even build mud tubes similar to termites.
How to Know if Ants are Living in Your Walls
Aside from cutting a hole in your drywall, it can be difficult to know for sure if you have ants living in your walls. There are however some telltale signs as well as certain species more prone to living in homes.
Certain species of ants are more prone to living inside the walls and homes than others. Here are the most common species of ants found living inside wall voids:
- Big Headed Ants
- Carpenter Ants
- Ghost Ants (colloquially referred to as Sugar Ants)
- Odorous House Ants
- Pharaoh Ants
- White Footed Ants
Fire Ants have also been known to live inside walls, though this is less common than the species listed about.
For help identifying these ants and for information on whether or not they can be controlled naturally check out our Ant Identification Guide.
Big Headed Mud Tubes are similar to Termites
How to Get Rid of an Ant Colony in Your WallsAs a general rule, baits should be used to resolve any ant problem inside a house. Deploying sprays can result in the unintended consequence of driving ants into other parts of the home, instead of actually eliminating them. In some species, such as Pharaoh Ants, spraying can cause a reaction called budding. This is when a colony spits and starts a new, separate colony, elsewhere in the home, making matters worse. Additionally, the actual location of a nest is usually difficult, if not impossible to locate. Worker ants spend nearly every moment of their life exploring and seeking out new sources of food for their colony and quickly bringing it back to the nest. By using baits, you ensure that the ants do the work for you. The exception to this rule is Fire Ants. Fire Ants pose a health hazard and can react aggressively when a colony is slowly dying from the use of bait. Also, unlike the other ants listed here, the location of a Fire Ant nest in a wall is not difficult to find because they will still bring large amounts of dirt and sand into the house, forming their characteristic mounds. Spray these painful pests immediately and be done with them.
Ants bringing dirt and eggs into the walls.
Wood Ants, Southern Wood Ants, and Red Wood Ants are an uncommon species of ant in North American. The term “Wood Ants” more often refers to various species of Carpenter Ant. There are many species of Carpenter Ant common in the U.S. and they can vary somewhat in appearance from black to red to bi-colored. In all cases, Carpenter Ants will nest around homes in walls, attics, rotten wood siding, as well as landscaped areas of the yard. Contrary to popular belief, carpenter ants do not actually eat wood, like their termite relatives. They will, however, use their lard mandibles to tear holes and galleries into the wood to make a nest. Soft, damp, or previously damaged wood are particularly susceptible to Carpenter Ant damage.
What are some signs of a Carpenter Ant infestation?
Because Carpenter Ants do not eat and consume wood the way termites do, they do leave very different evidence of their presence. While dry wood termites leave distinct, symmetrical pellets, or “termite dirt” carpenter ants leave behind what is called frass. Carpenter Ant frass is a messy collection of various materials – the bodies and body parts of other insects or small animals they have preyed on, bits of wood they have removed in the course of building their nests, or pieces of insulation, dirt, and sand. This material will basically be a mess, much different from the uniform material left behind by termites.
Carpenter Ants in Port St Lucie Florida
List of Insects that destroy wood and leave behind sawdust-like material.
- Carpenter Ants
- Powderpost Beetles
- Wood Boring Beetles
- Old House Borers
- Bark Beetles
- Carpenter Bees
Termite Treatments and Termite Damage Abatement
Termite Proofing Chemicals
There are several termite treatment chemicals – termiticides – that are very effective at preventing a termite infestation when they are applied pre-construction. The treatment of timber or lumber, before drywall is hung or finishing products applied to the wood, provides excellent and long-term protection against termite infestation.
Termite treatments conducted during the construction of the home are the most effective and long-lasting. They also come with several other benefits. Most of these treatments are done using borate-based products. Though not exactly boric acid or borax like you might pick up at the hardware store, they are mineral based and therefore considered “green” and a more natural way to kill drywood and subterranean termites. These organic options and generally less hazardous than other termite treatment chemicals.