People often see ants on their trees and wonder if they should be concerned for the tree and/or their house if it stands close by.
There are many different species of ants around, but there are two insects that have a significant relationship with wood: Carpenter Ants and Termites.
Carpenter Ants differ from Termites in appearance and behavior. Carpenter ants do not eat wood, but nest in moist, decayed cavities of trees or similarly damp, rotten wood on your home. They are generally not harmful to trees because they don’t tunnel into green/live wood and take up residence in spots that are already decayed. In homes, they are a nuisance pest due to their presence and usually don’t expand their nests into dry and sound lumber.
Termites ecological role is to break down wood into organic matter. They eat wood, nest underground and are only seen outside of their nest when the winged forms fly out to reproduce because they can’t survive in open air. Any old, exposed wood that is touching the ground such as firewood piles, dead branches, old stumps or lumber are attractive to termites. However, they probably won’t fell a live, healthy tree or endanger a home that has been adequately cared for.
For both pests, damp, rotten wood is attractive whether inside or outside the home. It’s smart to keep old wood away from your house and to have any exposed wooden elements of your house inspected and sealed up. Similarly, keep moisture away from your house by trimming trees and shrubs back and make sure gutters and grading keep rainwater away.