Ants are renowned for their ability to exist symbiotically with nature. Ants protect and farm aphids and receive sweet honey-dew in return, ants also create their own fungus gardens, and they protect trees from leaf-eating pests. However, some ants, such as the carpenter ant, can be quite destructive when they take advantage of a nearby natural resource. Silver maples, while able to provide shade relatively quickly, growing 3-7 feet a year, are prone to having weak and brittle branches. This makes them a poor choice of shade tree for a home, but an ideal nesting site for a carpenter ant colony.
Carpenter Ants Prefer Soft, Moist Wood
Silver maples are fast-growing deciduous trees and this means that like other fast-growing trees, their wood is soft. This leaves them prone to damage caused by wind and stormy conditions. Injured branches may then die and begin to rot. If these branches don't fall and hurt someone or damage something, then they may serve as the ideal real estate for a colony of carpenter ants.
Carpenter ants build their nests in rotting, diseased and weakened wood, chewing through it to build a network of tunnels and galleries. While they don't eat the wood, they can cause further damage by extending their nest into regions of a tree that are still in good shape, further weakening its structure.
Maple Aphids Provide a Food Source
Not only do silver maples provide carpenter ants with a habitat, they also provide them with food too. Aphids feed on maples to get at the sugar-rich sap they produce. While they won't kill a silver maple, they will attract carpenter ants. The carpenter ants feed on the honey-dew secreted by the aphids and this sustains their colony while they continue to branch out.
Your Home May be at Risk
If your shade is provided by a silver maple and you have recently noticed large black ants streaming over the tree, along with a gathering of saw dust at the bottom of the tree, your tree is likely home to carpenter ants. When carpenter ants forage, they can travel as far as 100 yards from their nest. Should your home be within that range, it may be at risk of a carpenter ant invasion. Carpenter ants are known to create satellite colonies; much like termites, when they locate a source of food that is near the edge of their foraging range. Your walls, furniture, and skirting boards are at risk, especially if there are any areas of moisture laden wood. For instance, wooden units in the vicinity of a leaking tap will be soft and inviting to carpenter ants.
Your silver maple might be putting your home at risk of carpenter ant attack, especially if it is old. Call a tree trimming specialist and have them remove any dead and dying branches before they attract the attention of carpenter ants. If your tree is already infested with carpenter ants, you should consider removing it. Branches that are weakened further by ants could become dangerous to you and your home in windy conditions.