Carpenter Ant


SIZE: Large - from 1/4 inch (6.4mm) for a worker up to 3/4 inch (19.1mm) for a queen

  COLOR: Black, or sometimes red and black .

Ants have two pair of wings but the wings in front are much larger than the hind wings. The abdomen and thorax of the ant are joined by a narrow waist called a petiole. The rear section of the segmented body, known as the gaster, makes up nearly half of the carpenter ant body. They have bent antennae that look like an arm with the elbow bent.



Carpenter ants eat living and dead insects, honeydew from aphids, sweets, meat, and fats, but they will readily forage for water and food scraps within the house. They also eat CELLULOSE ( a material that is important in making paper and cloth) which is made from wood and wood based products.

Ants require an outside moisture source. This may be from the soil, leaky plumbing or roof tops.

Carpenter ants carry food back to the nest and feed it to members in the nest that do not go out searching for food. These ants may forage (search for food) up to 100 yards from the nest Carpenter ants may become pests in houses by foraging for food.

Unlike termites, they do not feed upon wood, but merely use it as a place to nest.



Ants are social insects. An ant colony consists of workers and a queen. The workers are wingless females, 1/4 to 1/2 inch long, the smallest residents of the colony. They gather food and water to feed the colony, and gnaw out wood to make the areas in which the colony lives. Carpenter ants are nocturnal, which means they are awake at night and sleep in the day.

Carpenter ant scouts search out food sources and lay a scent trail back from the food source to their colony. The scout then alerts other workers with a waggle motor display of its gaster.The workers then follow this trail to the food source. Workers leave the colony in late afternoon or early evening, forage during the night, and return to the colony in the early morning hours.




Carpenter ants nest in live and dead trees and in rotting logs and stumps. However, they will also construct their nests in houses, telephone poles, and other man-made wooden structures. Ants found living in nests built inside houses are built in wood which has been exposed to moisture. Ants normally live and forage in the soil. Nests are commonly found in porch pillars and roofs, window sills, and wood in contact with soil. Ants can establish a nest above the soil if an acceptable moisture source is found.

Carpenter ants construct their nests in hollow trees, logs, posts, landscaping timbers, and wood used in homes and other structures. These ants prefer to infest wood that is moist and rotting, but wood that has been wet previously, may be soft enough to allow carpenter ants to hollow it out and produce a colony. Certain parts of a house such as: around and under windows, roof eaves, decks, and porches are more likely to be infested by carpenter ants.

Carpenter ants will use an old abandoned nest or wood that has been "hollowed out" by termites. Nests may be located in hollow doors or small void areas produced during construction.




The colonies of carpenter ants are often long lived. Each colony is founded by a single queen. She establishes a nesting site in a cavity in wood. The queen lays 15-20 eggs the first year, She then rears her first brood of workers, feeding them salivary secretions. She does not leave the nest nor feed herself throughout this period. The workers which are reared first assume the task of gathering food with which to feed the younger larvae. As the food supply becomes more constant, the colony population grows very rapidly.

The queen lays up to 30 eggs the second year. The eggs hatch in about 60 days. Worker ants can live up to 7 years. Queen ants can live up to 25 years!



  Check here for pictures of carpenter ants.




Carpenter ants are important in the balance of nature because they burrow and nest in dead trees and enhance decay of the wood.

Ants can be beneficial in cleaning up organic debris since they are such scavengers, which means they eat dead or decaying matter.

Carpenter ants eat termites, the insects that eat houses and buildings.



Carpenter ants rarely cause structural damage to buildings, although they can cause significant damage over a period of years because nests are so long lived.

Some recent information indicates that they can also cause extensive damage to foam insulation.

They may cause serious damage to wood in the structure.  



These ants are known as carpenter ants because they house their colonies in galleries they excavate in wood. Carpenter ants do not eat the wood they remove during their nest-building activities, but deposit it outside entrances to the colony in small piles. The wood is used solely as a nesting site. The galleries of carpenter ants are kept smooth and clean, and are not lined with moist soil as termite galleries are.

In the Mediterranean, ants are used by surgeons to close incisions; they are made to bite together an open wound, and then their heads are severed from their bodies.Their jaws will remain locked until the incision heals.


Click here to see a close-up movie and a carpenter ant eating.