Carpenter Ants Camponotus spp.
Up to 5/8-inch long.
Varies from black, brown and black, red and black, to light brown depending on the species.The two most common
pest species are black in color.
Carpenter ants feed on a wide variety of foods, especially other insects. The favored food of adults is the
sweet honeydew produced by plant-feeding insects, such as aphids, scales, and mealybugs. In the spring, mature
colonies produce winged reproductive ants, called swarmers, that fly out to start new colonies. These swarms often
occur from satellite colonies within homes, so homeowners may see large flying ants in their homes at night.
Carpenter ants can be very difficult to control, so most homeowners employ the services of a professional
Carpenter ants are the most common pest ant seen in homes throughout the northern United States. The main colony
must have a constant source of moisture to survive, so it is usually located in dead wood outside. This includes
dead limbs, tree holes, stumps, landscape timbers, and so forth. Indoors, a main colony will have to be associated
with a water leak or an overly wet, poorly ventilated crawl space or attic.The main colony may establish satellite
colonies that are the primary source of ant activity inside homes.These satellite colonies may be located in any
suitable void (e.g., hollow doors, curtain rods, shower rods), under attic insultation, etc.These ants set up trunk
trails between the main colony to satellite colonies and between satellite colonies. Foraging ants can most easily
be seen along these trunk trails at night when the ants are most active. Sometimes, the trunk trails occur beneath
the ground following tree roots.
Successfully controlling carpenter ants requires certain skills, knowledge and experience. Carpenter ant control
involves tracking down and treating as many satellite colonies as possible inside and outside of the home as well
as attempting to find and treat the parent colony. Accessing the parent colony may be difficult because it might be
located high in a tree or on a neighboring property. In such cases, your service professional may use carpenter ant
baits, but these may have varying results because of the carpenter ants’ finicky feeding habits. If conditions on
your property (such as a large number of trees) create a high risk for reinfestation, your service professional may
recommend regular pest management services to help prevent new infestations. These tips will help you limit
carpenter ant infestation:
- Store any firewood away from your home and remove any dead wood or wood scraps from around the
- Trim dead limbs from trees and remove stumps. Rid your yard of these potential nesting sites.
- Make sure that all plumbing or roof leaks are sealed, and check crawl spaces for excess moisture.
- Water from rain gutters should be directed away from your home and not be allowed to accumulate close to
Indoor carpenter ants nest in dry wood, building “galleries” in
which the walls are smooth and clean, giving it an almost sandpapered appearance; any debris, such as sawdust-like
wood fragments, that is caused by the nest construction is carefully deposited outside the nest. This smooth, clean
work often appears as if it were done by carpenters, hence the name.
When using baits made specifically for carpenter ants, they often do the work for you, carrying the bait back to be
fed to the ant colony. Trim all trees and bushes so they do not touch exterior walls. Fix leaky roofs and plumbing
to reduce excess moisture; painting and/or sealing wood before it becomes wet is also good.
Replace wood previously infested by ants or termites or any rotten or water-damaged wood such as dead stumps, and
store wood for later use (firewood, plywood sheets, etc.) off the ground and away from the house.
Does not eat wood, but will feed on nearly anything people eat—particularly sweets and meats. Will also feed on
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 ants 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.
Carpenter Ant Treatment
In controlling an infestation of carpenter ants, it is necessary to first find the nest. Once found, it can
be removed or treated chemically. All moisture conditions that the ants found conducive must be corrected.
If treated quickly, carpenter ants are seldom responsible for serious structural damage to houses and buildings.
However, these ants could cause extreme damage if they continue undiscovered for an extended period. Thus, it is
best to contact a pest control professional in the event of an infestation. It is advisable to seek professional
help in containing carpenter ant infestations, as incorrect procedures may allow the colony to “rebound” when
surviving member resume their burrowing and foraging.