CSI this scene of insect carnage please? ("Should I buy it" edition)
April 22, 2017 8:54 PM   Subscribe

This is a scene of apparently ongoing insect warfare in a house I am considering purchasing. It has been vacant about a year and is located in Los Angeles. Who is eating whom and should it cause me any worry as a potential homeowner? Who made the poop splats? What is the "dirt"? I don't see any termites. So I am inclined not to worry. But I am curious for sure. Pics below the fold.

First shot is out of focus (sorry) but gives the general landscape of the massacre (floor, floorboard and part of wall). Those white/gray splatters are localized to the area, not paint. There are about 4 of those little piles of ??? against the wall, although the photo only shows 2. There did not appear to be holes behind them although I did not investigate closely other than taking the pics. The miscellaneous corpses extend over about a 6 foot wide area. The ants are about 1/8" long. Adult spiders, 1/4" in diameter.

Closer shot of the general scene of the mayhem

The compost heap.


More casualties. Mummies?

The next generation?

Mom (one of many but not hundreds), amid takeout containers.

The suburbs.

More suburbs.
posted by bluesky78987 to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The dirt looks like termite poop. If it's not termites its almost certainly something eating the wood. The carnage is presumably from someone hiring an exterminator, no? Was the house tented or sprayed for termites in the past year?
posted by fshgrl at 9:23 PM on April 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Don't know. The adult spiders seemed to be alive (but they might have moved in to feast on the newly exterminated ants?)
posted by bluesky78987 at 9:42 PM on April 22, 2017

Best answer: Gladiator Pest Control.

The owner is super professional and it is a small business, I forget his name, but I'm pretty sure he does all the service calls. I have dealt with 5 or 6 different pest control guys (for business and personally) this guy was BY FAR the most knowledgeable and just generally awesome.

Pay him to assess this for you. Base your decisions on his advice. Good luck!
posted by jbenben at 10:13 PM on April 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yelp reviews jogged my memory... his name is Ralph. He's just the best.
posted by jbenben at 10:15 PM on April 22, 2017

Well, now that I'm never sleeping again...

I'd really recommend that you hire a home inspector with insect infestation experience. If you're not squicked out by this, lucky you, but there has to be some reason the house was infested in the first place, and that's what you need an inspector for. If there is something rotting inside the walls that they were all feasting on... they'll be back, they'll reinfest. And if all the dead things didn't spill out of the walls, there are more dead things inside the walls, waiting to be feasted upon.

In preview, someone mentioned already that the carnage must be from an exterminator, who then didn't clean up the mess. And it wasn't complete, since there are still things alive. An incomplete extermination job is a red flag that whoever is in charge of caring for this home is remiss in their responsibilities. Tread carefully, get an inspector, insist on a home warranty. Ensure in advance that you can insure the property given the infestation history.
posted by juniperesque at 10:17 PM on April 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: In my experience ant infestation in LA is very common. Those ants areliving behind the walls (I think the tunnel entrance is visible in a couple of your photos) the dirt comes from from their excavations. The spiders are, at the very least, accidentally catching live ants in their webs, and my thought is they are actually preying on the ants, though I have not ever seen spiders eat ants before. The spiders will probably reduce the ant population over time and hold the the numbers of ants down going forward. Or you can get an exterminator to spray everything, which will kill off all of the spiders and most of the ants. The ants who are resistent to the spray will breed and their population will eventually surge again, requiring more spraying etc. etc. Through time eternal. You will never manage to rid yourself of the ants. If you don't want a house with ants I would pass on this one cause I would bet all sorts of money those ants are there to stay.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 10:35 PM on April 22, 2017

Here in Florida, not only do we have termites, we have Carpenter Ants. As LA and Florida have a similar climate, maybe you have them out there as well. Get someone out there toot sweet to get rid of those buggers.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 6:41 AM on April 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

And if you do ID these as carpenter ants keep in mind that they like wet wood and may indicate another problem.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 7:47 AM on April 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

Carpenter ants are not restricted to semi-tropical climates, we get them in New England as well. The difference between termites and carpenter ants is that termites will eat dry, otherwise sound wood, while carpenter ants will generally only nest in wood that is already compromised by rot. So, if what you have does turn out to be carpenter ants, you need to worry about how the wood got wet - could be leaky pipes, or a leaky roof.
posted by mr vino at 7:51 AM on April 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everybody.
posted by bluesky78987 at 8:25 AM on April 28, 2017

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