Having a dead tree stump in your yard can lead to a variety of problems, not the least of which is an infestation from unwanted species of insect. While they may be harmless in the yard, a tree stump can serve as a bridge for pests to enter your garden which eventually leads to them entering your home.
Ants, in particular, can be a real problem since they can contaminate food, damage wooden structures, and even attract other pest species such as aphids. This article seeks to educate you on how best to combat an ant problem that has its home base in a tree stump.
Are You Infested With Ants Or Something Else?
There are a number of pests that love using dead tree stumps to nest. Ants are the most common, but there are also various species of beetles and termites as well. Identifying ants as opposed to termites presents a challenge on its own since termites can often resemble winged ant species.
Key features to look for in termites are the lack of the narrow waist that ants always have; ant antennae are also bent whereas termite antennae are straight. Both of these species can be a real nuisance for homeowners. While we’re focusing specifically on ants, some of these tips can be applied to termites as well. Be careful, though! If you attempt to remove a termite infested nest on your own you could simply cause the termites to flee to a new nesting space, which could be inside your home!
It’s far better if you think you have a termite infested tree stump to call a professional tree service to remove the stump. If you have ants, the measures may not need to be as drastic, nevertheless take care when dealing with them as well.
Types of Ants
There are a number of ant species that may make their home in a tree stump. One of the most common ones is the Carpenter Ant.
Carpenter Ants, unlike termites, do not actually eat the wood, but they are capable of damaging it a great deal by hollowing out wooden structures to build their nests. This particular species is large, ranging from 1/4-3/8 of an inch long and generally come in black or brown colors. Certain varieties, such as the Florida Carpenter Ant, are red. Besides their appearance, you can also identify their presence by a fine sawdust that is left behind from the construction of their nests.
A similar type of ant you may find in a tree stump is the Field Ant, which looks similar but has an uneven thorax. This species does not nest inside of stumps but will forage all around it. Field Ants are known to bite when disturbed so be careful if you think this is the species you have.
Keeping Them Out of Your Home
Of course, ants are not contented to stay in the area around their nests and the main source of the headaches for homeowners is their constant foraging for food. This not only takes them all around your yard and garden, but into your home as well. This is especially a problem when it is very dry or wet outside as ants may be forced indoors, looking for shelter from the elements or seeking sources of water. Species such as the Carpenter Ant are nocturnal, so they may sneak into your house without you ever knowing it during the night.
There are a number of ways to keep ants from entering your home. First, make sure that there are no grasses or other plants right next to the foundation of your home. Keep any plants or mulches about a foot away from your house to prevent ants from using them as shelter and wandering in. Also, make sure that any cracks and trim work are sealed with latex caulk to keep ants from finding entry. Even with these measures, ants can often find their way in so it’s also important to keep any food in the house sealed away so that if they do show up, there is nothing for them to find and return for.
If preventative measures are not enough – and they may not be if the infestation has already begun to grow out of control – then you can also consider using baits to control ants. This method is safe to other wildlife and pets when properly utilized, and although it takes time for it to work, it can be a very effective way of controlling ants. You simply place bait stations (filled with a sugary bait that is laced with boric acid) along the ants’ foraging paths. The workers will collect the bait and return it to the nest, where it will slowly take effect to poison not only the workers but the other members of the colony as well.
If baits do not work, you can also drill holes directly into the tree stump and apply stronger poisons with a funnel. There are both dry pesticides – such as disodium octaborate tetrahydrate (which will dry the ants out) – and wet pesticides such as cyfluthrin. Either type can be very effective but you will need to take care not to expose wildlife, pets or children to these toxins.
If none of these methods appeal to you, you can also hire a tree service professional to remove the infested stump. They will often be able to do it in a non-intrusive way which does not force the ants to seek shelter elsewhere. If preventative measures have not worked and you do not want to risk using insecticides yourself, this may be your best option.