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Saturday essay: Ants with tool belts

| Friday, July 18, 2014, 8:57 p.m.

The hanging basket on the front right side of the greenhouse somehow looked not quite right. The bracket holding it had slightly drooped and was pushed back. Perhaps something had hit it. But upon closer inspection, that “not quite right” had turned into something quite wrong.

As the bracket was pulled into its proper position, it simply pulled out of the greenhouse frame. Or what was left of that portion of the frame, to be precise. And the cause was not dry rot. No, this is pressure-treated wood, it was soggy and what was aiding and abetting the structural failure soon began to scatter by the hundreds, eggs in tow.

Yes, ants with tool belts — carpenter ants — had invaded, exploiting a breach in the greenhouse roof that kept the exposed and unpainted top of one corner post wicking down the rain water in a fashion that would put the most absorbent paper towel to shame. And where there's water and wood, carpenter ants soon are to nest.

What's surprising is that pressure-treated lumber is impervious to infestation. Supposedly. The extent of the damage is phenomenal; the corner had to be braced and a safety post installed under one of eight roof joists to prevent collapse. The damage, now isolated, can be safely cut out and replaced.

The roof leak will be fixed and, for added special protection, tar will be applied liberally to the ends of the replacement wood to prevent a wicking repeat. But carpenter ants being carpenter ants, somehow and some way, they'll be back.

— Colin McNickle

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