Garden dectective: Can you identify this ant?

Published: Saturday, Jun. 9, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 6CALIFORNIA LIFE
Last Modified: Monday, Jun. 11, 2012 - 7:26 am

Can you identify this ant? They have gathered on a plastic blind hung in a west window. They first appeared in December. Could it be a carpenter ant?

Colleen Ackerman, Orangevale

Yes, your sample appears to be a carpenter ant (Camponotus ssp.). According to the late UC Master Gardener Bill Pierce, carpenter ants feed on dead and living insects, nectar, fruit juices and sugary honeydew excreted by plant-sucking insects.

Carpenter ants don't consume wood like termites, but they do excavate it to make their nests, which in large colonies can consist of an extensive network of galleries and tunnels often beginning in an area where there is damage from water or wood decay.

Nonchemical measures that can help prevent infestations include:

• Trimming tree branches and shrubs away from structures to prevent access.

• Sealing of potential entry points such as where utility lines enter a structure.

• Reducing mulch around building perimeters to a depth of 2 to 3 inches to discourage nesting.

• Eliminating any earth-to-wood contact of structural elements that might promote decay.

• Replacing decayed or damaged wood and correcting problems that cause decay such as clogged rain gutters or leaky pipes.

• Increasing ventilation to damp areas.

• Storing firewood off the ground and several feet away from structures.

• Removing potential food sources inside a structure and storing them in tightly sealed containers.

Additional information on chemical measures to control carpenter ants are available in Pest Note 7416. This is available online at

For a printed copy, send a stamped, business-size, self-addressed envelope to: PN 7416, UC Cooperative Extension, 4145 Branch Center Road, Sacramento, CA 95827.

I got this shoot from a "volunteer" in a neighbor's yard. The tree is 6 to 7 feet tall and has more shoots at the base of the trunk. My neighbor was going to cut it down, but I asked her to wait until we know what it is.

Shari Baelfyr, Rio Linda

Your mystery tree is an olive. A bird probably dropped a fruit in your neighbor's yard.

The tree will eventually produce fruit that can be cured and eaten. The UC Master Food Preservers offer information on olive curing. The El Dorado County branch can be reached at (530) 621-5506. Or call the Sacramento County group at (916) 875-6913.


Questions are answered by master gardeners at the UC Cooperative Extension services in Sacramento and Placer counties.

Send questions to Garden Detective, P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, CA 95852. Send email to h& Please put "Garden Detective" in the subject field and include your postal address. To contact your UC Extension directly, call:

Sacramento: (916) 875-6913; 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. weekdays

Amador: (209) 223-6838; 10 a.m.-noon Monday through Thursday; email

Butte: (530) 538-7201; 8 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m. weekdays

El Dorado: (530) 621-5512; 9 a.m.-noon weekdays

Placer: (530) 889-7388; 9 a.m.-noon on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Thursdays, or leave a message and calls will be returned

Nevada: (530) 273-0919; 9 a.m.-noon Tuesdays through Thursday, or leave a message

Shasta, Tehama, Trinity: (530) 225-4605

Solano: (707) 784-1322; leave a message and calls will be returned

Sutter, Yuba: (530) 822-7515; 9 a.m.-noon Mondays and Tuesdays and 1-4 p.m. Thursdays

Yolo: (530) 666-8737; 9-11 a.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, or leave a message and calls will be returned

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