It’s spring time in Massachusetts and insects have started their nest building. During tank inspections our technicians have discovered that insects will build nests in protected areas like vent pipes and remote fuel ports. This can lead to problems with performance by restricting the flow of fuel into your oil burner or carburetor.
The photos to the right show a large mud dauber nest that blocked a majority of the air flow to this underground storage tank. The oil burner supplied by this oil tank was cutting out frequently and the school maintenance department could not determine the cause. The city that operated this school called CommTank to perform an underground tank and piping test to check for problems. When we opened the vent port mounted on the side of the school building we found this large mud dauber wasp nest. It blocked two thirds of this 2 inch pipe and was preventing proper fuel flow to the oil burner. Luckily for the school, cleaning it out with a shop-vac was the fix for this problem.
Get Your Boat Ready
This insect is a problem for the recreational boating industry too. Boats that are stored over the winter are appealing to wasps because the boat is void of human activity. A boat mounted on a trailer or a jack stand is an ideal protected nesting location for wasps. The wasps like warm spaces and motor cowlings will trap heat when exposed to the sun, making it a perfect incubator for young wasps. This issue is so common that BoatUS Magazine includes a visual inspection list for mud dauber nests in their Spring Engine Startup Guide.
Small but Dangerous in Fuel System Vents
The airline industry is another group that sees its share of insect problems. In the past 5 years there are 20 documented cases of aircraft accidents due to mud wasp infestations. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) in Australia sent out a wasp infestation alert that warned of blockages in fuel vent tubes, drains and carburetors. Nests in the fuselage on flight control cables wires were also found.
CASA recommends that owners and operators follow the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions with regard to parking and storage of aircraft. In addition:
- Consider installing approved fuel vent screens or removable drain/vent covers and engine compartment blanks, as well as installing tight fitting pitot / static vent covers,
- Remove inspection panels as required to inspect unsealed wing and fuselage cavities etc. before flight, if the aircraft has been stored long term in the open air.
- Continually monitor and remove any wasp nesting sites in the general area where the aircraft is stored or maintained.
It can take mud wasps as little as 20 minutes to build a significant nest. In Brisbane Australia, an Airbus A330 had to abort a take-off for an airspeed indicator failure. The maintenance crew found the captain’s pitot tube was significantly obstructed by a mud-dauber nest. This buildup of nest material occurred during a 2-hour layover at a loading gate.
Webs and Cocoons
Wasps are not the only insects that like to make homes in fuel system piping. Spiders will weave webs and store captured prey in fuel tank vent pipes. Moths in their caterpillar stage look for dry spaces that are protected from birds. They will crawl into vent pipes and spin a silken cocoon to protect them as pupae. Once the cocoon is finished, the moth caterpillar molts for the last time, and forms a pupa inside the cocoon. When the adult hatches it leaves the cocoon behind. If you have enough moths do this in the same pipe it will block air flow.
A blocked pipe can restrict the flow of fuel into your oil burner or carburetor. Fuel system vent lines are important because they allow pressure within the fuel tank to equalize when product is removed from the tank. A visual inspection is a good preventative measure. Most home heating oil tanks have a vent and fill pipe that are located close together so the oil supply company can monitor the vent whistle during delivery. Check that the vent cap is secure and has a screen that prevents insects from entering. Commercial tank vents can be mounted on top of the tank or located on the side of the building. A ladder is typically required to inspect these vent caps and the same visual inspection of the screen applies. The other item to check on commercial tanks is the remote fill port. Ensure the cover closes properly and the dust cap has a gasket that makes a tight seal.
When to Inspect
Mud daubers are most active in spring when they build nests and prepare them for new larvae. Fall is the best time to check your vent pipes and fill ports for caterpillars. Spiders create webs and store food from April to November in Massachusetts so a regular check for new webs is the best strategy. While these insects are considered good it might be easier to make your property a less inviting nesting location. One method is to attract insect eating birds by putting feeders in your yard. No matter how you deal with these critters, don’t ignore them because they are persistent. The best way to prevent fuel system problems is to start with a spring tank inspection and correct any issues as soon as possible.
"Far, far exceeded my expectations for what could have been a messy and smelly job."
"All at Comm Tank made a very stressful situation for us more than manageable. The men who came to do the work were always on time, extremely polite, and hardworking."
"In 34 minutes they achieved the removal without doing any cutting inside my home! Seeing is believing, which is why I sent you, today, the photos taken of their remarkable effort."
"Recently we hired your company Comm Tank to remove an underground oil storage tank buried in our front yard for many years. We also asked you to install a new aboveground oil storage tank next to our house."
William J. Lewis.
"They left the area cleaner than they found it. They were very friendly and fully explained how the tank was to be cut and removed."
"I would recommend Commtank to anyone who needs an oil tank removed. The price for such great service was very reasonable. Truly a good experience for me and my family."
"In the 40 years that I have lived in my house I have never had anyone do so much work, rip up so much sod yet leave everything in such a clean, neat and apparently undisturbed state."
"I want to thank you all for your excellent customer service and for going above and beyond the call of duty, to get my leaky oil tank problem resolved in time to sell my father's house."
"Paul’s recommendation along with the comfort level I felt dealing with your team made my decision to choose CommTank and easy one. Should I ever hear of anyone in need of a new oil tank I would recommend CommTank without hesitation."
"We have used CommTank now for inspections and service for the last two years. We have found the CommTank team nothing less than professional, knowledgeable and reliable."
"I do mean all of them…you could be proud of them and know that they represent your company in a very professional manner. In today’s world, you very rarely see this."
Billl and Barbara Clough.
"The project was on time, under budget, and everyone connected with the project was very easy to work with, both people on-site and in the office. "
Town of Southborough, Ma
"I want to thank you for the excellent work you and your crew have done at my station."
"I am emailing you with this word of “Thanks” to Comm Tank for one of the most professional companies I have used in quite sometime."
"When I called for an estimate, Margie was very informative and one of the reasons I chose CommTank to do the work."
Jack E. Meyer, M.D..
"I had an oil tank removed yesterday, and the whole operation could not have gone more smoothly."
"What could have been a stressful situation actually went smoothly without any issues or surprises. I would recommend CommTank in a heart beat to anyone in need of their services."
Scott E. Lechter.
"There were many steps throughout the process and at every step I was very well informed. The scheduling, coordination and communication was simply outstanding."
"I want to thank you for your work in the oil tank removal at my mother’s house in Walpole."
"Except for the oil smell for a while, you really couldn't tell that the work had been done; EVERYTHING was neat & tidy and cleaned up both inside and out."
"Thanks for your help and the customer service that CommTank provided."
North Reading, Ma
"Your employees did a nice job and were a credit to your company in their professional work and attitude."
"Thank you for doing a very nice job!"
Prides Crossing, MA
"Your crew just left my site and they are wonderful, clean, great, and nice!"
"I would certainly recommend your company."
"These two excellent employees came early, at 7:15 a.m. Which is very appreciated by us, clients that have to leave for our jobs."
"They patched the holes left from removing the fill and vent lines like pros - I did not expect this level of service."
"Kim and I are very happy to have found you!"
"We want to tank your for a job well done while removing the underground oil tank."
"I wanted to thank you for a great job on the installation of the new fuel dispenser."
"Thank you for your donation of 200+ gallons of fuel through your CommTank Cares Program to St. Clement Parish Schools. Your generosity is certainly a help to our schools and parish."
Reverend Paulo Cumin.
"just want to express my appreciation for the excellent service that was provide to me in the removing of our 1,000 gallon underground oil tank."
"What I think I’ll never forget was how clean the basement was after the two men had removed the contaminated soil from our house. It had never looked like that!"
"Early this month your company removed my almost 40-year-old tank from my basement and installed a Roth Tank. I was extremely pleased with the results and with the crew that did the work."
"It was neat and clean and they left the area spotless. The gentleman who came back to inspect the job was kind and courteous."
"The City is extremely grateful to CommTank for its assistance in this cleanup. We believe we made a very wise choice in the selection of CommTank. Please feel free to use me as a reference for your team's pursuit of other environmental work."
Thomas G. Ambrosino.
"She called to brag about how professional the service was, and how clean and precise the installation was."
"We really appreciate the responsiveness to what was a worrying situation and the two men who performed the work were true professionals."
"This company is the best. The price was very reasonable, better than anyone else I contacted, about $300.00 less,"
"I had my oil tank and boiler removed from my home. Comm Tank showed up on time and finished the job quickly and neatly."
"I want to thank CommTank for the wonderful job that your crew did yesterday while removing and installing my oil tank."
"Thanks so much for getting your guys out here so quickly to take care of the issue. While they could not tell exactly what caused the seepage, they ended up replacing the red connector with the fill gauge to be safe."
"There were two crews on separate days that did a great job and were very knowledgeable about their job and company."
"As for me the customer, I am very pleased on the workmanship that was performed, and I would recommend ComTank to anyone that needs a new tank."
"Your workers were out at my house in Wayland last week and did a fantastic job removing the oil tank from my basement."
"The quality of their craftsmanship is buzzworthy, the work surpassed my expectations."
"They showed up on time, were extraordinarily efficient and neat, provided a comprehensive removal, and were very courteous in all our dealings."
John P Senko.
"You and your entire on-site crew, including Santiago and Carlos, all have been first-rate and first-class."
"Thank you for your competence and professionalism, your cheerful and hard-working staff, your expertise with regulations/compliance issues, and for referring us to Tommasino & Tommasino in Boston."
Richard and Kristen Henshaw.
"Please note that this appreciation comes from a person managing construction for clients for some forty years."
"Excellent work so far. We wish these guys were on all three Boston projects."
Peachtree Corners, GA
"He will refer us to anyone and will definitely be using our services again."
"Please let the crew know that I really appreciate the hard work and professionalism."
"I spoke to Cindy the other day and reiterated to her about how happy we were with our experience."
"The thorough explanation of what was to be done was excellent."
"During this past summer I had an underground oil tank removed and replaced with an indoor Roth oil tank, and was exceptionally pleased with the service."
"In my opinion they were very professional and courteous."
Mary Louise Thrower.
"Thanks again to you and your team for the high level of workmanship and customer performance you provided."
"Your company has been most professional, timely, and informative!"
"This was our first experience with your company and we were very pleased from start to finish."
"Your crew were great to work with and did a great job, although very hot out there, they continued on with no complaints."
"All of our clients are more than satisfied with the quality of CommTanks installations and LEO is as well."
"It was a pleasure having them work at my house."
"They quickly went to work and solved the problem. As worried as I was, Luis made me feel that everything was going to be ok. Luis was always there no matter how many times I called."
Jeffery J. Graham.
New Bedford, MA
"We were so pleased with the removal of the old furnace."
"They tore down part of a wall, shoveled, removed my old tank and replaced it with a new tank, also gave me some oil."
"They were courteous and professional, timely and completed everything as well as anyone could have asked."
"I have dealt with contractors before and was very impressed with your crew."
"I would hope I would never have to have a UST removed again, but if I did, you would be the first people I would call."
"They left the basement much cleaner than when they started the job."
"Kevin's response and his team’s effort to help contain and cleanup a small spill were some of the best I have seen in my 40+ years in the petroleum industry."
"The technicians were outstanding. We needed 3 tanks removed from our basement."
"Kevin Hoag and Nelson were outstanding, they showed at 8:00 AM sharp, they were very professional, explaining all steps, very polite, their work was perfect."
"CommTank just finished the UST removal job and the customer is absolutely delighted."
"Amazed that this level of customer service still exists in this day and age!!"
Jamaica Plain, Ma
"Great job, completed on time, very aware of the Safety of our tenants."
Deborah M. McClory.
"Came when they said and did what they said quicker than I thought and left the cellar clean all at a reasonable price."
"I also commend Luis Diaz on his pleasant, informative phone manner when we first spoke and at the time of the site exploration. His handing of the situation convinced me to go with CommTank."
Newton Centre, Ma
"The professionalism and courtesy with which you and your crew handled this situation far exceeded my expectations and that of my customer."
"I will recommend your company to my colleagues and clients."
"From the moment I contacted Comm Tank, it was nothing but a positive experience."