Carpenter ant buildup hammering central peninsula

Posted: Monday, July 10, 2000

SOLDOTNA (AP) -- First spruce bark beetles and now carpenter ants.

The central Kenai Peninsula is enduring an abundance of the large, destructive ants, which leave telltale piles of sawdust as they burrow into homes and other buildings.

Officials knew they had a problem last month when carpenter ants turned up in the Soldotna Sports Center.

''There were out and about -- nice, big, fat ones,'' said Paul Beebe, the center's building supervisor. ''We found them in the center of the rink. We noticed them out front. Then we found one spot where it seemed like a mess, where they were all going in and out.''

After an exterminator sprayed, ants, eggs and larvae tumbled out of the wall. Spraying seems to have killed the nest, Beebe said.

Carpenter ants left to their own devices can run up a big bill for property owners.

''Given time, they can make your house fall down around your ears,'' said Everett Walton of American Pest Control in Anchorage. ''We have a home here in Anchorage that has about $35,000 in carpenter ant damage.''

The harm spruce bark beetles are doing to local forests will make the carpenter ant problem worse, some say.

Boyd Shaffer, a biology professor at Kenai Peninsula College in Soldotna, said the ants ''go into dead wood not to eat it but to make channels for brooding chambers. The beetle kill has made so many dead trees for them.''

Ken Perry, administrative manager for Paratex Pied Piper Pest Control, agreed.

''I think we're going to see more activity due to the tremendous numbers of trees being cut down because of the beetles,'' he said. ''So many people cut the tree and leave the stump in the ground. That stump is prime habitat for carpenter ants.''

Janice Chumley, integrated pest management technician for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service in Soldotna, said she has been getting six or 10 calls about carpenter ants each day. The calls come mainly from Homer, Kenai and Soldotna, she said.

Shaffer said carpenter ants are among the biggest in North America. Workers may reach three-quarters of an inch in length. Queens may be an inch long.

The ants normally excavate nests in damp, rotting wood, but they also nest in live trees or house timbers, particularly those that are damp and contact the soil. They also will dig nests in foam insulation and behind bathroom tiles, sinks and dishwashers.

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