Of the ants proper, or those belonging to the order Hymenoptera, there are three species in particular which attack timber, viz. - l
1. The Black Carpenter Ant (Formica fuliginosa), which prefers hard and tough wood, rather in standing trees than in seasoned timber. A tinge of black is seen round the holes it makes, caused by iron in its saliva acting upon gallic acid in the wood.
2. The Dusky Ant (Formica fusca).
3. The Yellow Ant (Formica flava).
The two last-mentioned species prefer soft woods.
The White Ant (genus Termes) is a disagreeable-looking cream-coloured insect of fatty substance not quite a 1/4 inch long, with a black head and lobsterlike claws. It grows wings at the last stage of its existence in the nest and flies away to die.
It is found sometimes in Europe, but chiefly in tropical climates, more especially in Africa, the East Indies, the Mauritius, and St. Helena, generally in damp soils near the sea or rivers. Its nests are in the ground or in timber, but always where there is no vibration to destroy the cells.
White ants will eat the whole timber work of a house without noise. They bore close to the surface of the wood, but without destroying it, so that there is no visible indication of what they are doing.
No timber has yet been found which is sure to resist them. Teak is riddled by them. Jarrah and greenheart are said to be more successful, but this is doubtful. Cedar while new keeps them at bay by its smell, but when this passes off they devour it eagerly. Oregon pine particularly attracts them. The natives of the countries infected by them use common unsawn yellow pine of long fibre with more success against them.
Protection against the white ant. - Creosoting with bone oil is the best preservative against white ants, but on account of its smell is only adapted for out-door work, and can hardly be applied to very dense tropical timbers. Kerosene is effective while its smell remains. The use of arsenic to guard against them has been abandoned as ineffectual.
1 Hurst's Tredgold.
Other Insects besides those above mentioned attack wood, among which may be mentioned the Carpenter bee of South Africa and the East Indies, and wood beetles in Ceylon.
There are also two or three kinds of small beetles in this country which destroy furniture, carvings, etc., and burrow into books in libraries. The best way of destroying them is by subjecting them to the vapour of chloroform or benzine.1