Over the years I’ve found many carpenter ant colonies and seen a lot of carpenter ant damage. Most people outside of the pest control industry confuse carpenter ant damage with termite damage, water damage and wood boring beetle damage. However, the distinction between them all is easy to recognize if you know what you’re looking for.
The following are the defining characteristics of wood destroying insect damage.
Subterranean termite damage
The are several different types of termites in the United States, but in Connecticut we only have one; the eastern subterranean termite. Subterranean termite damage is easily distinguishable from carpenter ant damage because termites bring a muddy substance into the wood with them as they feed. This muddy substance allows them to stay moist for a longer period of time. Carpenter ant damage on the other hand contains no mud. The galleries are clean and smooth. Another way to distinguish termite damage from carpenter ant damage is that termites don’t create sawdust, carpenter ants do.
By far and away water damage is the most confusing type of wood damage to identify. The reason is that water damage tends to destroy wood so significantly that over time not only does it begin to look like insect damage it may also harbor non wood destroying insects. We get many calls every year from homeowners that misidentify water damage on their own as termite or carpenter ant damage.
So, how does the layperson tell the difference? Begin with location. If the wood is well off the ground (4′ or more) and the the wood beneath it and around it is sound it’s likely not termite damage. Next, if the wood is near the ground look for mud and/or sawdust. If neither are present then it’s likely water damage and not carpenter ant or termite damage. Last, look for what appear to be pin holes with a talc powder like substance coming out of them. If you see this then a wood boring beetle is usually the culprit (which coincidentally inhabit moisture ridden wood).
Use the process of elimination as well as location to rule out insects. After you’ve done this the answer is usually pretty clear.
Carpenter ant damage
As noted earlier carpenter ant damage usually contains a sawdust called frass. This “sawdust” contains bits and pieces of dead insects, wood shavings (similar to pencil sharpening sawdust) and debris. Think of frass as the garbage from a carpenter ant colony. Carpenter ant damage also has galleries that are smooth to the touch. So smooth in fact that it’s hard to believe that an insect was able to achieve this. Carpenter ant damage is also typically near or around some type of water damaged wood.
Powder post beetle damage
For the purposes of this post we’re going to keep the category of powder post beetle very broad. The reason is that the name powder post beetle actually describes a very broad category of insects. In general though powder post beetle damage differs from carpenter ant damage in 2 very distinct ways. The first being the presence of “pin holes” that are perfectly round and about 1/16” in diameter. The second is the presence of frass that has the consistency and texture of talc powder. Carpenter ant damage has neither of these characteristics.
Still confused as to what kind of wood destroying insect you have? Please call Envirocare Pest Control at 1-888-879-6481, we can help