Ask Ferris: Carpenter Ants in Oak Tree Trunk
I have an oak tree near my back deck that carpenter ants have eaten out over 1/2 of the trunk. Do I have to have it removed or can I fill it?
Please do not fill a cavity in a tree with anything, such as a what others have called a wound left from removing a large limb. This will only make the problem worse. What has to happen within any tree cavity is a process known as "walling off". The tree prevents the spread of the decay by sealing it off from the live tissue. If you fill a cavity, there will be abrasion against the live tissue which will worsen the situation.
The carpenter ants are present because of the problem in the tree trunk; they have not caused it. But the extent of structural wood loss should be closely examined to determine the safety of this tree. It sounds as if your house is a potential target if this tree fails, so you will want to have reasonable assurance that there is enough holding it up. An arborist can sound the tree or use a resistograph to get this information.
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