Carpenter ants come from the insect groups of Camponotus sp. and use wood to excavate galleries. Many confuse carpenter ants with termites; however, they are dissimilar because they don’t consume wood like termites. The carpenter ant creates their nest by excavating insulation or hollowing out planks of wood.

Typically when outside, old limbs and branches of weakened trees are attractive to carpenter ants for them to construct their nests. If you store firewood, this is also an attractant. Although they prey upon damaged wood attacked by termites, they become genuine pests.

What makes them a nuisance is when foraging workers search for food sources indoors. If you see signs of ants coming in the house and a colony transitions towards homes or other buildings, it usually means the beginning of a carpenter ant infestation.  One of the biggest nuisance pests pest control companies find is their threat to structural integrity.

If your home is showing issues with carpenter ants, it could be a moisture problem. Water-damaged wood or wood that is simply old and rotten helps these pests to create an infestation.

Carpenter ants are not common for creating harm to framing lumber, yet when home buyers and sellers see them, they create concern. It is daunting to see carpenter ants forage because of the potential for wood damage.

What is a black carpenter ant?

A black carpenter ant sitting on a leaf

The Camponotus pennsylvanicus or black carpenter ants are a popular species found in the Midwestern United States. The worker ant is the common name for a black carpenter ant in its adult stage. It is wingless and black, and its length varies between one-fourth to one-half of an inch.

Black carpenter ants coloring and sizes vary within the species and, in some cases, even within ants from the same colony.

What’s the difference between Carpenter ants and Termites?

It is important for you to be familiar with how to distinguish the difference between these pests.  Because they are known for excavating wood and living in colonies, one can be mistaken for the other. Therefore, to ensure proper control methods, it is imperative for correct identification. Carpenter ants termites can appear similar to the inexperienced eye.

How to recognize a carpenter ant?

Since we are mostly concerned with Carpenter ant Swarmers, let's go over the descriptions of this pest first:

  • The worker carpenter ants have no wings, and their coloring is a shiny, dark brown, almost black. Measuring in at around a quarter to half an inch long.  These little black ants can be noticed creeping along the floors of a house.
  • Similar to winged termites, the winged reproductive are also known as swarmers.
  • A Carpenter ant's body is constricted between the abdomen and thorax.
  • They have elbow-shaped antennae.
  • The back wing of the reproductive ant is shorter than its front wing.

Eastern Subterranean Termites

What Eastern Subterranean termite look like

Now that you have a good idea of how to distinguish the carpenter ant let's take a look at the Eastern Subterranean termite:

  • Similar to the carpenter ant workers, the termite workers are also wingless. They measure around one-eighth to one-fourth of an inch long and have a coloring of creamy white. Unless their tunnels have become exposed, these workers normally hide out of sight.
  • The reproductive types have wings. Their coloring is darker--from brown to black. They are a little larger, at three-eighths to one-half of an inch long.
  • Unlike the carpenter ant’s body, a termite’s abdomen and thorax are not constricted
  • They have antennae that resemble straight, bead-like sections.
  • A reproductive termite's back, and front wings are about the same length.

What month do carpenter ants come out?

The early spring months of March to April are when carpenter ants are most active. They continue this activity until the months of early fall--September thru October.  During the Spring, the adult carpenter ant colony lets out the individuals ready for reproduction.

Swarmers are reproductive big carpenter ants with wings. Mating is a carpenter ant swarmers’ primary purpose within the colony. After mating, males die, and the female flies off to find a new place to lay her eggs and create a brand new colony.

Carpenter ant colonies go dormant during the winter, yet, any nests indoors might continue to show signs of activity. Carpenter ants establish nests as they excavate wood, but what do carpenter ants do in the winter?

Unlike termites, their nests are tunnels that are clean and smooth and normally run opposite the wood’s grain. The difference between a carpenter ant and subterranean termite tunnels is that the termite nests are made from a mud-like material and go the same direction as the wood grain.

What a carpenter ant eats?

A carpenter ant looking for a food source

Food sources based on protein (dead or living insects) are what carpenter ants primarily feed on outside. They also enjoy sweet foods, like the honeydew that some scale insects and aphids create. Carpenter ants that live mostly inside like to eat fats, meats, jellies, and syrups.

Unlike termites, carpenter ants don't eat wood. Clues that you have carpenter ants nearby are the ants dead in house and pieces of insects and sawdust accumulations.

Do carpenter ants feed on dead insects?

Carpenter ants prefer a diet based on protein. This includes both living and dead insects. They also enjoy foods that are sweet-tasting, such as the honeydew that some scale insects such as aphids produce.

When they come inside, carpenter ants feed on fats and meats. They also will eat jelly and syrups they happen to find.

The nature of carpenter ants

By nature, a carpenter ant is nocturnal. Wood that is soft, partially decayed, or moist is what they prefer. They search for hollow trees in which to create carpenter ant nests.

A gallery is a term to describe a carpenter ant colony. These galleries look like they have been sandpapered and are extremely clean.

The termite galleries, in comparison, have a more rugged look. Termite-damaged wood contains a material that looks like mud, unlike that of carpenter ants. Some common places indoor carpenter ants are found are in moist wall voids that have been hollowed out behind appliances.

Carpenter ants behind appliances

Carpenter ant nests are visible wherever there is water, such as near sinks and bathtubs.  But do ants die in water? Other places that attract these ants are chimneys with poor flashings, leaky roofs, door frames, and windows lacking a proper seal.

Some places where carpenter ants are found outside are inside fence posts, dead parts of standing trees, and tree stumps. These pests are rather persistent and will construct nests in sound wood crevices and cracks.

What are the two types of carpenter ant colonies?

Carpenter ants may set up their nests in a variety of areas. These places can be both indoors and outdoors. This is a fact that is imperative to remember. In addition, the nests they build are two types- which are the parent colonies and satellite nests. It is in the satellite nests that the larvae go through pupation and finish the metamorphosis into maturity.

The queen lays her eggs in the parent nest, whereas when larvae hatch, they are transported to the satellite nests.

How many worker ants are in a colony?

A mature parent colony consists of a queen that lays eggs, the brood, and approximately two thousand workers.  Large carpenter ant colonies like this are capable of causing immense structural damage.

There are not any larvae, eggs, or a queen in the satellite carpenter ant colony, yet there are several worker ants. You might, however, have a few satellite colonies hiding back behind a bathroom or kitchen wall in your home. These ants started out in parent nests outside, in a pile of wood, timber, or a tree stump. If your roof leaks, it will attract foraging ants to venture indoors. Satellite colonies of big carpenter ants damage structures, too, yet, are not as damaging to the structural integrity as termites do.

When you see ants foraging indoors, they are searching for water and food sources. Therefore, you will not see a lot of them at once. Workers will travel as far as a hundred yards away from the nest to forage food. Therefore, just because you see a couple wandering in your house, it doesn’t mean you have a nest indoors.

What are major and minor worker ants?

There are two different categories of carpenter ants. The minor workers take care of the young and forage for food. Whereas the major workers protect the nest and behave like tiny soldiers.

Why do carpenter ants swarm?

Numerous number of ant swarmers

Certain states in the United States are more common to have an infestation of carpenter ants. Similar to other ant species, the carpenter ant swarms when they are ready for mating. When a large number of male and female reproductives move out of a colony, a swarm forms.

During this time, male carpenter ant swarmers or winged carpenter ants will mate with female winged carpenter ants. Following their mating period, the male soon dies, and the female abandons her wings. Females then leave in their search to find a new place to construct a colony of their own.

Accompanied by a few worker ants, after mating, female reproductives become queens and fly off. They go off looking for a place suitable to begin their new colony and nest.

What do swarmer carpenter ants look like?

It is normally during the spring that the carpenter ant species swarm, yet, they can be recognized any number of times annually. Usually, the queen of the carpenter ants look like larger and black, approximately one-half of an inch in length.

Male carpenter ants are smaller than a queen. A significant characteristic of every species of carpenter ant is between the abdomen, and thorax is a one-segmented node.

How can you control carpenter ants?

For effective ways how to kill ants in yard, using boric acid will help with carpenter ant control. However, some people do not like using harsh chemicals due to having small children and pets.

If you find carpenter ant swarmers inside your home (or other building), there is normally a nest close by. Ensure you identify the ants correctly because other ants are known to swarm during springtime.  Accurate identification is imperative to ensure the proper treatment for carpenter ant control is used.

The way to tell if it is a carpenter ant or a termite is by the waist and antennae. Their antennae are in the shape of an elbow. The wings are varied in length, and there are two pairs. In comparison, a termite does not have a waist that is visible. Their four wings are the same size, and the antennae are straight.

Due to the nature of their complex biology and nesting habits, it can be challenging to find adequate carpenter ant control. In many cases, the best way to get rid of black carpenter ants is to call a pest management professional like A.N.T. Pest Control New Lenox.

The life cycle of the carpenter ant

A colony in the life cycle

Normally, there are no reproductives (winged queens and males) produced within a colony until the number of workers gets to around 2,000 to 3,000. During the summer, about 200 to 400 winged ants will mature and prevail throughout the winter inside the carpenter ants' nest. Once spring to early summer comes, these ants will abscond from the nest.

Ants in winter are inactive and hibernate. However, if the nest of carpenter ant swarmers is found in a building's heated area, they will become more active.

Mating cycle of the carpenter ant

During the warmer days of spring and pre-summer, the winged males and females come out of the established colonies. A short flight is when mating happens. Following their mating ritual, the males die while the queens take off their wings and look for a place to lay eggs and start nest construction.

A tree cavity, log, or stump with decaying, damp wood is a common place to discover a brand-new nest.
A new queen’s first brood of offspring produces around 15 to 20 eggs. Larvae that are legless, soft-bodied, and white in color are what turn into female sterile workers.

It takes at least 60 days for an egg to mature into a worker ant. The first brood of workers is smaller due to their only nourishment coming from the queen’s stored food within her body. Once mature, the queen has one duty, and that is to lay eggs. Foraging for food and caring for and feeding the queen and future larvae is the responsibility of the adult workers in the colony.

How to effectively treat carpenter ant nests?

Treating an ant nest

Some effective ways for treating carpenter ant nests are to put foam, aerosol, or insecticide dust straight into the carpenter ant galleries. Do this ant killer outdoor method by drilling holes one-third of an inch wide into the areas of suspected activity. After drilling the holes, put the insecticide into each of them.

Spray insecticide dust areas around door and window frames and other cracks and crevices, providing a point of entry.

When it's time to call a professional 

If you have tried everything to get rid of those wood-destroying pests, it is time to call the experts in pest management. A.N.T. Pest Control New Lenox knows how to find their outdoor nests and satellite nests hidden in rotting wood, tree limbs, and dead trees.

Call A.N.T. Pest Control today for ant control services; we will get rid of the carpenter ant swarmers prioritizing the egg-laying queen before she is able to produce winged males to further the infestation.

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