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QUESTION: Hi Jack,

We are in the process of completing an extensive remodel of the basement of our 50 year old home in north Georgia.  As I was cleaning the floor this week in anticipation of carpet installers coming tomorrow, I found a strange looking material along the base of a painted paneled wall that is constructed with 2"x 2" pine studs mounted against the concrete walls with fiberglass insulation between studs. The material was sprinkled evenly on the concrete floor for about 12 to 15 inches between the old carpet tack strip and the very bottom of the wall panel.  There are no pin holes in the paneling above the unfamiliar material and it appears to be spread evenly...not in piles indicating termites or carpenter ants in the wall above.  I checked all other areas in the basement and found only one short area that appeared to contain similar material.  We have never seen any termite swarms, dead termites, or wings inside or outside our home.  We are fortunate to have a dry basement.
I am concerned what this material might be...subterranean termites. drywall termites...or perhaps carpenter ants.  I used some sticky back paper to pick up as much as I could and will save if needed.
Would appreciate your opinion as to the possible source of this material and what might be done to eliminate it.
Regards,
Ernest

ANSWER: Ernest,

Can you post a photo of this material and any damage that you see?

Jack DeAngelis


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QUESTION: I can see no damage since it is falling from behind the paneling.  I've uploaded 2 pics.

ANSWER: The material is too course to be powderpost beetles and too heterogeneous to be drywood termites (I also don't see the fecal pellets typical of drywoods). Subterranean termites typically don't produce fragments like this so that leaves carpenter ants as the most likely source, I think. Unless you plan on removing the panelling you'll need to treat this from the outside with a perimeter treatment of Termidor and baits, see http://www.livingwithbugs.com/carpenter_ants.html and post a follow-up if you have questions. The good news is that you can probably treat this later in the spring from the outside and it won't slow down construction.

Jack DeAngelis


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QUESTION: Hi Jack,

Thanks for your timely and thorough response.  Will a termite inspector be able to look at my sample dropping and tell me definitely that I have carpenter ant  infestation and work with me to get rid of them?  Are these rascals as serious as termites and what should be my level of expediency be in addressing the problem.

Thanks in advance for your assistance.

Regards,
Ernest

Answer
By termite inspector I'm guessing you mean pest control company. You'll find good ones and some that are not so good so it is a bit of a crap-shoot. Carpenter ants are not as damaging as termites but can cause serious structural damage over time so I'd definitely not ignore this. Most "handy" people can treat these issues as a DIY project since you don't need any special equipment, and it is not "rocket science". Just do the homework and ask questions when you get stuck.

Jack DeAngelis

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Jack DeAngelis

Expertise

I can answer questions about the control of pest insects, spiders, mites and related arthropods. These household pests include termites, carpenter ants, powderpost beetles, nuisance ants, bed bugs, cockroaches, fleas, wasps, and many others. I can also answer questions about using pesticides and other pest control tools such as baits and traps.

Experience

I am a retired university extension entomologist. I've taught and conducted research in urban and agricultural entomology. I've published over 70 extension publications, 20 research publications and several books about insects.

Education/Credentials
Ph.D. in Entomology

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