Carpenter ants are black and get their name from their habit of hollowing out galleries in wood for nesting purposes. This nesting habit can result in structural damage to buildings. The carpenter ant is found throughout the United States.
The workers are large (up to ½ in.) and queens about ½ to 5/8 in. long. Their color is a combination of black, red and black or completely red or completely brown. The antenna is segmented with no club like appearance. Their profile is evenly rounded on the upper side. Carpenter ants bite and have no stinger. The bite can be quite painful when they inject formic acid into the wound.
Carpenter Ant workers are of different sizes: large, medium and small. Also called majors, minors and intermediates. There is usually only 1 functional wingless queen ant per colony. Swarmers are not produced for more than 2 years and in some species up to 10 years. Swarmers have wings and fly around in search of an appropriate place to start a new colony. Swarmers appear in the east from May to August and in the west from February through June. Eggs develop to adult stage in 60 days.
Black carpenter ant colonies are moderate in size and will contain over 3,000 workers when maturity is reached, in 3-6 years. When the western carpenter ant nest is mature, it will contain up to 10-20,000 ants, with larger colonies up to 100,000 workers.
Feeding and habitat:
The only external indication of infestation is the presence of workers and swarmers and small openings (called windows) on the surface of the wood. Through these, the carpenter ant expels sawdust like shavings, mixed with dead ants or bits and pieces of insects they have eaten. The galleries are kept smooth and clean of debris. They prefer moist or decaying wood but they will also invade dry sound wood as well. Carpenter ants will be found in rotting fence posts, stumps, dead portions of standing trees, and under fallen logs.
Inside, nests can be found in soft moist wood preferably softened by fungus rot. Because of this they are often found in wall voids behind a dishwasher, around sinks, bathtubs, poorly sealed windows, roof leaks or where there may be water damage to wood. The presence of carpenter ants can be indicated by the sound of rustling in the wall voids. The nest can sometimes be located by tapping the blunt end of a screwdriver on wood surfaces or baseboards while listening for a hollow sound. If a nest is nearby this may stir up the ants, which would cause them to move around or “rustle” in the wall. Otherwise, the emergence of swarmers flying around may be the first sign that carpenter ants have a colony inside.
Carpenter ants may develop nests in a number of different locations. They have 2 types of nests: the parent nest and satellite nests. The parent colony when mature will have an egg laying queen, a brood and 2,000 or more workers. Carpenter ants inside the home may have come from a parent colony. A satellite nest may have large numbers of workers but no queen, eggs or larvae.
The workers travel up to 300 feet from the nest and will enter buildings around door and window frames, eaves, plumbing and utility lines, shrubs and tree branches (when in contact with the building). Most activity is at night between 10 pm to 2 am.
Carpenter ants feed on honeydew made of droppings from aphids, mealybugs and scale insects. They also feed on plant and fruit juices, insects and arthropods. Inside, they feed on sweets, eggs, meat, cake and grease.
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Common Arizona ANTS
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