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Sawdust Piles Could Mean Carpenter Ants

By Chris Williams on July 20, 2013.
Carpenter ants and sawdust

Question

My son just pointed out a couple of little piles of sawdust on the floor in a back corner of our family room. I know they haven’t been there for long because I do vacuum in that area. When I looked at the piles more closely, I saw some insect legs and parts in the piles, too. Is this sawdust from termites? Do I need to call a pest control company?

Answer

The good news is that the sawdust is not from termites. Our subterranean termites don’t leave any sawdust behind or push any sawdust out of their tunnels. Since they eat the wood and live in soil, their tunnels are plastered with a muddy-looking material instead. Some wood-boring beetles do push a sawdust-looking material out of their tunnels, but if you look closely you can see that the pile is not really made up of wood pieces at all, but is instead fecal pellets from the feeding larvae.

You should have a professional inspect the area to determine the source of the sawdust, but what you describe could be carpenter ants. The reason I say that is you mention finding insect parts in the sawdust piles. This is typical of carpenter ants which often feed on other insects. Carpenter ants don’t eat the wood that they infest, they just excavate it for their nests, and they keep their galleries very clean. So the ants are dumping shredded wood, bits of insulation and other debris, parts of insects, and dead ants from the nest. To do this, they cut tiny slits in the exterior of the wood to push the material out. If you look closely, you might see the slits above the sawdust piles.

Nests Aren’t Always in Wood – You don’t say whether you have wood paneling on the walls. If it’s carpenter ants, they could be infesting that, or structural wood inside the wall voids, or they may not be infesting wood in your home at all. Sometimes carpenter ants will nest in a void space, or even in insulation, without tunneling into wood. They could be nesting around a window frame above the dump piles. Carpenter ant infestations often start in wood that is decaying or damp, for instance where there might have been a plumbing leak or a roof leak, or rotting wood around a window.

You may have seen large, dark ants foraging inside your home, or the ants may be exiting from a nest inside your home directly to the outside of your home where they are foraging for food.

You should contact a pest management professional for an inspection. Leave the sawdust piles, or collect some, along with any ants you find. Our Colonial technicians can determine the source of the sawdust, the extent of the infestation, and will present you with control options. Your satisfaction is guaranteed. Call Colonial today.

Photo credit: tracywoolery / Foter / CC BY-ND

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