Termites and Carpenter Ants In Maine
While doing Home Inspections, we are often asked about insect infestation and the damage they can cause. People tend to be most concerned about Termites and Carpenter Ants. Although neither are very common Maine, they both can cause extensive damage, so we recommend homeowners remain diligent to avoid infestation.
Carpenter ants get their name because of their habit of excavating, tunneling and living in wood. In Maine we have the red carpenter and the black carpenter ant. Their habits and sizes are similar, but the latter is more common. Carpenter ants are one of the larger ants in Maine. There is one type of termite that lives in Maine, called subterranean termites; their habitat includes the very southern part of Maine, as far north as the Portland area. The other type of termite, Formosan or dry wood termite, is not found in Maine.
Both carpenter ants and termites are attracted to wet, rotten wood- they infest live, dead or fallen trees wherever there is some rot and moisture. In nature, they play an important role in recycling wood, but when they attack buildings they are destructive. The closer a forest, with rotten logs, is to homes or buildings, the more likely there will be a termite or carpenter ant infestation. In your home, wood that is exposed to repeated or prolonged water contact can soften and rot, inviting them. Water leaks can occur around the chimney, roof valley, gutter, window, door frame, or space under wooden floors when there is no basement. Sill areas invite the insects, especially if soil touches the wood. Kitchen and bathrooms are also vulnerable, as a leak in a water pipe or water-heating system provides the moisture the ants require.
Carpenter ants do not eat wood, but rather tunnel only to increase nesting space. Their natural habitat is the forest, where they feed on sap, pollen, nectar, fruits, and both living and dead insects. Water is an important part of their diet. The presence of large ants usually is the first sign of infestation. Coarse sawdust is a sure sign, but since they are nocturnal it is often difficult to find the nest.
Unlike carpenter ants, subterranean termites actually feed on water-damaged wood tunneling through it as they feed. They use mud tubes to move around above ground to forage of food and are usually the first sign of infestation. The tubes maintain the humid environment that the termites need and help protect them from predators. These tubes are constructed from a mixture of soil, wood, saliva and feces. They are dark brown and can often be found along the foundations of a property, where the termites enter the building from the surrounding ground, as well as along floor joints inside the building.
If you find evidence of infestation of either of these insects, consult with a pest removal specialist. The best solution is to prevent infestation in the first place. Both insects require wet wood, so the obvious solution (once again) is to keep water away from the wood of your house.