Carpenter Ants

Latin Name:

Camponotus

Appearance:

Among the largest ants, from 1/4- to 3/8-inch long. The most common species is black, but some have reddish or yellowish coloration. Workers have large mandibles.

Habit:

Resides both outdoors and indoors in moist, decaying or hollow wood. They cut “galleries” into the wood grain to provide passageways for movement from section to section of the nest. Can leave “sawdust” behind that provides clues to nesting location.

Diet:

Does not eat wood, but will feed on nearly anything people eat—particularly sweets and meats. Will also feed on other insects.

Reproduction:

Queen lays 15 to 20 eggs the first year and up to 30 eggs the second year. Eggs complete their life cycle in about 60 days. Worker ants can live up to seven years, while a queen may live up to 25 years.

Carpenter Ant Facts

Ants of the genus Camponotus are known as carpenter ants because they prefer to establish their colonies in galleries excavated from damp or damaged wood. Carpenter ants do not eat wood as termites do, but instead remove wood and deposit the debris outside of their nests in small piles.

Carpenter ants clean their nesting sites, and their galleries are not lined with mud or moist soil as termite galleries typically are. Carpenter ant workers keep their galleries as smooth as sandpapered wood.

Carpenter ants vary in size, ranging from two to 20 millimeters in length. One carpenter ant colony can contain different sizes of ants depending on caste and responsibility. The color of carpenter ants also varies between species, ranging from jet-black to dark brown, red, black, yellow, orange, yellowish tan or light brown. They are most commonly black, but some carpenter ants exhibit both red and black coloration. They are common in many parts of the world.

Because the size and color of carpenter ants vary between species and even between individuals within a single colony, these characteristics are not used in identifying carpenter ant infestation. Identification of carpenter ant species can only be made through careful observation of specific physical characteristics.

In natural environments, carpenter ants dwell in both dead and living trees, stumps and rotting logs. However, they may also establish their nests inside of homes and buildings where wood is found. Carpenter ants prefer to establish nests in areas where wood has been exposed to severe moisture.

Carpenter ants build two types of nests: parent colonies and satellite colonies. Parent colonies consist of a queen, her brood, and workers. Satellite colonies consist only of thousands of workers. Workers create satellite colonies when the parent colony lacks sufficient space or when there is a suitable supply of food or water. Satellite colonies are typically located within 20 to 40 feet from the parent nest. There may be several satellite colonies associated with a parent colony.

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