Pacific Northwest Home Inspection (King of the House): Moisture Ant Infestation

By
Home Inspector with King of the House Home Inspection, Inc

We would rather live without moisture ants, but they are an important part of nature -- turning old wood back into soil. As a home inspector and a licensed structural pest inspector, I often see carpenter ants. But, recently, I ran into another ant infestation that is not nearly so common to find as the carpenters -- moisture ants. It is amazing how much damage these little insects can do. They come in different colors, a brown to a yellowish-green color, and they are tiny. Take a look at the photo below, but they are way smaller than that.

While these ants are small, boy what extensive damage they can do as they build galleries.  In this case, the toilet leaked, rotted out around the flange and floor and then came the moisture ants. That is one thing about this species, they are not particularly aggressive. That is, they will not move into healthy wood like some termites or carpenter ants. The moisture ants move into wood that is already very wet or rotting. So, really, don't blame them for all the damage. If things were in good shape in the first place, they would be nowhere around. For this same reason, they do not require a chemical treatment to eradicate them. Simply get rid of the water issue, be it plumbing leaks, failed caulking, etc and then replace the weak and damaged wood. In fact, bad as this spot was at the house, nobody had been living there in a long time -- no more flushing or toilet leaks -- so it looked like the ants had packed it up and had moved out. The amount of damage they can do, despite being an opportunistic and secondary infestation, is cataloged below.

  

The view from far away: fallen black insulation (mud from ants)

At first I suspected rats 

Rot, initial distinctive signs of moisture ant damage

  

Major signs of moisture ant damage, their distinctive work

 

Closeup of a piece I removed, a realtor asked me what it is.

The answer -- mud and wood!

Thanks for stopping by,

Steven L. Smith

GeoLogo207

 

 

Posted by

        

        

Check out "This Day In History" -- music and vintage television from the 1950's through the 1980's.  I enjoy writing these articles because they take me back to my days in radio broadcasting. Click on Elvis' gold record, below, to revisit those golden hits of yesteryear.

           

close

This entry hasn't been re-blogged:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
Spam prevention

Accessibility option: listen to a question and answer it!

To submit the form,
drag the house to the circle on the side.

Type below the answer to what you hear. Numbers or words, lowercase:

Topic:
ActiveRain Community
Tags:
bellingham home inspection
bellingham wa home inspector
whatcom county home inspection
moisture ants
ferndale inspection

Comments 33 New Comment

Show All Comments
Rainer
29,531
Debra Gambill
Realtor, N.C. / S.C
Weichert Realtor's Southern Coast
I never even heard of a moisture ant before- in our part of the country- we have termites- but I have never heard of the ants- thanks for the post and the education.
March 01, 2008 01:24 PM
Rainmaker
570,044
Bill Gillhespy
Fort Myers Beach Realtor, Fort Myers Beach Agent - Homes & Condos
16 Sunview Blvd
Still amazes me how destructive these little critters can be.  Good info.
March 01, 2008 01:24 PM
Rainer
406,157
Sean Allen
International Financing Solutions
International Financing Solutions

wow, interesting information. I had never heard of moisture ants before. Thanks for sharing.

Sean Allen

March 01, 2008 01:28 PM
Rainmaker
360,336
Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, Sr. LBA,
...Finding Your Place In The sun!
Douglas Elliman Real Estate
I have a question about carpenter ants...I think you said they march? I sometimes find a semi-large "juicy" black ant wandering through my living room, by himself and I have called my regular exterminator who knows my house and he says that it is nothing to worry about---I don't have moisture problems but the house is a 1930's craftsman style bungalow and it did have Terms when I bought it but it has been treated and repaired. I hear that sometimes carpenter ants move into a former termite home; is that correct? It is a fairly rare appearance but I get really worried when I see one.
March 01, 2008 01:32 PM
Rainmaker
31,138
John Hokkanen
Encinitas Real Estate
SurfTheTurf.com
I think EO Wilson (that academic guy who studies ants) says that the total biomass of ants in the world exceeds the total biomass of humans.  That's a pretty amazing statement.
March 01, 2008 02:03 PM
Ambassador
2,342,263
Lenn Harley
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland
Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate

I am constantly surprised when I find that a homeowner has not had a termite inspection for 5-10 years or more. 

Then there are the owners who have the "Termite Warranty" and therefore ignore everything. 

NewsFlash.  Termites can't read!!!

I recommend to my buyers that they have a termite inspection every year.  Geez.  It costs a whopping $50.

March 01, 2008 04:36 PM
Rainmaker
334,601
Ann Cummings
Portsmouth NH Homes - Service With a Smile!
RE/MAX By The Bay - NH and Maine

GROSS!!!  Those pictures are grossing me out for sure.  I've never heard of that kind of ant, but we do have carpenter ants up here.  I've had them myself, but now have my house treated twice a year and no problems since.  Gross!

Ann

March 01, 2008 07:10 PM
Rainmaker
1,177,600
Steven L. Smith
Bellingham WA Home Inspector
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc

Hi all,

Thanks for the comments. I am busy doing a report but will respond personally as I get a chance here.

March 01, 2008 07:17 PM
Rainmaker
97,647
Joe Hayden Real Estate Team
Your Louisville Real Estate Experts!
RE/MAX Properties East

I have never even heard of moisture ants!  I guess (hope) I may not be alone in this...;)

Ha ha ha...Lenn..."Termites can't read..."  But they can make a killer pot of coffee...;) 

March 01, 2008 08:33 PM
Rainer
33,629
Melissa Olson
HOPE Lending LLC
HOPE Lending LLC
Steven - very interesting.  I guess we get our share of "critters" here in the Puget Sound that is much different than the east coast. 
March 01, 2008 09:50 PM
Rainmaker
197,089
Marlene Bridges
Laguna Homes|Laguna Condos|Laguna Real Estate
Village Real Estate Services, Inc.
Steven - Congrats on the feature.  You so deserve it!  I've learned so much from you.  Thanks.
March 01, 2008 09:53 PM
Rainmaker
1,177,600
Steven L. Smith
Bellingham WA Home Inspector
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc
Thanks again for all the comments. When I get done with the bear of a report I am banging out, I will give you the attention you deserve, as far as your questions.
March 01, 2008 10:50 PM
Rainmaker
261,430
Wayne B. Pruner
Tigard Oregon Homes for Sale, Realtor, GRI
Oregon First
Good information on ants and pictures of damage. Thanks for the post Steven.
March 01, 2008 11:27 PM
Rainmaker
573,788
Neal Bloom
Realtor CRS-Weston FL Real Estate
Keller Williams Properties, Weston FL
Pretty disgusting...we see carpenter ants here a lot...it's common..I believe we see them in attics more and from water leakage from the roof areas. They are pretty big here an homeowners have seen them in inspections and don't even realize hey were there..it seems like they can be killed pretty easy but they definitely look pretty bad. We have all ant problems here in Florida as you probably know moisture is a big thing here.
March 02, 2008 08:13 AM
Rainer
20,440
Michael Zollo
Certified Residential Appraiser, South Florida, FHA
A-Z Appraisals, Inc.

Kevin

I don't know about the west coast where you are, but in the Fort Lauderdale area, we have a company called, Do It Your Self Pest Proof. If you do, or similar, put a few of the ants in a jar and bring it to them, they'll sell you the right stuff and tell you how to use the Chemicals the right way.

March 02, 2008 12:59 PM
Rainmaker
712,919
Barbara S. Duncan
CRS, GRI, e-PRO, Searcy AR
RE/MAX Advantage
Congratulations on the featured blog.  You deserve it!  You write good blogs and so does your friend!
March 02, 2008 08:27 PM
Rainer
122,017
Christy Powers
Pooler, Savannah Real Estate Agent
Keller Williams Coastal Area Partners
Wow, there are way too many different kinds of ants. I have never heard of moisture ants before. That is crazy. I will definitely be on the watch out for leaks!
March 02, 2008 08:42 PM
Rainmaker
1,177,600
Steven L. Smith
Bellingham WA Home Inspector
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc

Paula,

It is probable that a large black ant is a carpenter ant. I would not say carpenter ants specifically look for termite houses but carpenter ants are an enemy of termites, they eat them. Also, the same conducive conditions that attract termites tend to attract carpenter ants. In fact, conducive conditions that attract one wood destroying organism tend to appeal to all varieties -- fungal and insect.

Do you have a problem? Well, that can be hard to tell. Do you live in the woods, with lots of trees around. If so, carpenters are often out looking to form satellite nests. Those of us in real estate ought to understand that -- they are looking for affordable housing that is not too crowded.

I do not like to find ants inside the home. Too often they came up from the crawl space or the attic. Now, if you take this ant and ring his neck, how long before you get another? If it is fairly soon, or even in a day or so, I would be concerned. On the other hand, if it is weeks or months, not so much so. When I said marching, I did not mean a single ant. I meant a few, or many, following one another and sometimes transporting their white pupa. If you are sitting on a deck or something, and see large black ants, then just watch them. If they are darting under your house, climbing up in soffit vents, going under the gable in a hole, then you have a real concern. This is hard to trouble shoot from afar.  Like I told Kevin, you can send me an ant, and I can ID it for you. But then one carpenter does not make a work crew.

 

March 02, 2008 09:01 PM
Rainer
639,029
Carl Winters

Steven - Thank you for this good information. We recently had a leak in our pump house, I didn't tend to it right away and found  the wood ants did quite a bit of damage in a hurry. Now I have to get busy and do some repair work.

Thanks for the good pics and information.

March 02, 2008 09:33 PM
Rainmaker
1,177,600
Steven L. Smith
Bellingham WA Home Inspector
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc

Carl,

Glad it was helpful. We probably see more of this being in the wet northwest, than lots of the rest of you see.

March 02, 2008 09:55 PM
Show All Comments
Rainmaker
1,177,600

Steven L. Smith

Bellingham WA Home Inspector
Ask me a question
*
*
*
Spam prevention

Accessibility option: listen to a question and answer it!

To submit the form,
drag the lamp to the circle on the side.

Type below the answer to what you hear. Numbers or words, lowercase:

Additional Information