Do you mean “ants” or “ANTS!”?
There is a difference. A close inspection will give you a better idea of what you’re dealing with. If it’s a “one ant here, one there, kind of thing”, it could just be that they are foraging, looking for a meal. Massive colonies are another thing entirely! Deciding if you have a problem is easy. You should look at the tree from a distance, does it look generally healthy? Inspect the base and trunk of the tree. Are there any off colored or oozing, sappy spots? Where are the ants headed?
Not a problem, type of ant.
“Elongate Twig Ants” live in trees. http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/beneficials/beneficial-34_elongate_twig_ant.htm They eat other bugs and are beneficial, even though they like to fall out of trees and bite really hard. They live in very small groups and are never an issue. Learn what they look like, tell them “Thanks” when you see one and let them go on their way…they are good guys.
Could be a problem, type of ant.
If there is suddenly a pile of soil at the base of your tree, you should investigate. Fire Ants http://fireant.tamu.edu/ will do this during soggy weather. Since Fire Ants are ground dwellers, soggy soil is a huge issue for them. Soggy soil could be caused by rain, flood, sprinkler systems or under ground leaks. If their existing mound fills with water, the queen, eggs and larvae could be in peril. Their solution to the problem is to pack everyone up and run to higher ground temporarily. Sometimes “higher ground” is a tree and if the tree has any kind of cavity, even better…it’s an added layer of protection. Most ants live in the ground because regulating the temperature and humidity in the mound is crucial to raising their brood. Fire ants are easy to kill. We recommend Fertilome Come and Get It, as a broad casted bait. Then apply Natures Guide Fire Ant Killer as a mound treatment as needed until the Come and Get It really kicks in.
Carpenter Ants https://insects.tamu.edu/extension/publications/epubs/e-412.cfm can also live in tree cavities, but not because they are feeding on the tree. They are omnivores and only excavate diseased or dead wood to build their home. Termites do not feed on live wood either and are not a type of ant. Learn to identify the difference between ants and termites here http://flrec.ifas.ufl.edu/entomo/ants/ant%20vs%20termite.htm
THE PROBLEM IS NOT THE ANTS!
At this point, you should have decided whether your ants are a problem or not. When ants occupy a cavity, in a tree, the cavity is the problem, not the ants themselves. The ants are a symptom of a more complex problem. So, if the ants are a symptom, the cavity is a symptom…your tree could actually have a disease! The tree has developed a cavity for a reason, the wood died and then rot set in. Diseases could be bacterial or fungal. ( There are very few viral diseases in trees.) You now need to decide what to do about the real problem. Diseases could be tricky to diagnose and even harder to treat. How valuable is the tree? If you have 10 trees in your yard, could cutting it down be the most cost-effective thing to do? Will removing it prevent other trees from having a problem? What caused this? Should you call a professional? (The answer to this last question is “YES”!)
Call a pro or 2 (or 3)
Get a diagnosis and an estimate from them all. We recommend Jack Fitzgerald (Treeco Tree Service) at 281-356-2754. Ask your friends, neighbors and coworkers for other references. Remember, just because the truck says tree service…it doesn’t mean they know what they are doing. (Sort of like anyone who has a truck and a shovel thinks they are landscapers). Ask how long they have been in business. Ask for references and call them. Ask to see proof of insurance. Now is a great time to get an estimate on having your trees trimmed and to get on a their schedule. If your tree does have a bigger issue than just ants, a pro is money well spent. Trees are valuable and unless you know what you’re doing, you or some one could get hurt. You also don’t want to cut down a tree needlessly. They will tell you what you can do to for the long-term health of your trees and how much they add value to your property.