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BIG, BLACK ANTS IN THE FIREWOOD PILE!

By Chris Williams on March 17, 2017.

Because winter just won’t go away, I was moving some firewood into the house in case of a power loss. We really haven’t used much firewood this winter since we got a new furnace so I was surprised to find that my firewood pile seems to have been overtaken by big black ants. Some of them had wings and much of the wood was in pieces. Are these carpenter ants? Will they infest the house? C. T., Deerfield, NH

It sounds like they could be carpenter ants but only a professional identification could say for sure. Carpenter ants are our largest ants (up to ½-inch long) and they do damage wood when they excavate galleries. However, the wood damage you see could be from termites, other wood borers, wood rot, or a combination.

The fact that some ants had wings means they were getting set to send out a swarming flight to establish new nests. Seems too early for that but with our strange weather, anything can happen. It sounds like the ants have indeed been living in your woodpile for some time; only a mature nest produces winged ants. The scenario also suggests that your firewood is not stored properly and is too damp since both carpenter ants and subterranean termites prefer damp or rotting wood. If the bottom wood pieces are sitting on the ground that increases the chances of rot and infestation.

BEST TO JUST LEAVE THE ANTS OUTDOORS

Wood that is damp or has been hollowed out by insects isn’t going to be of much heat value anyway so I suggest that you not even bring it into the house (see What Can You Do With Insect-Infested Firewood?) If carpenter ants did end up inside, it’s very unlikely that they would do any damage indoors. You are relocating only a small portion of the colony, which is no doubt missing the queen. Those ants would be very confused and would probably die fairly quickly in the drier indoor air.

For more on carpenter ants and firewood management, see these Colonial blogs:

Photo Credit : CC BY-SA 2.5, Link

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