Carpenter Ant Facts
The Carpenter Ant got its name from the way it builds its nest by creating a network of tunnels in wood. There are 50 species of ants from this genus that live throughout the United States of which 23 have been known to infest buildings. These are three of the more common species of carpenter ants.
Carpenter Ant Bites
Carpenter ants do not have stingers, but do have a painful bite. Some species can release the odor of formic acid or inject the acid into the bite wound when alarmed. This acid injection creates a burning sensation.
Carpenter Ant Infestation
Carpenter ants predominantly live in dead or damaged wood that is rich with moisture. You can find these ants living within trees, attics, crawlspaces or wall voids.
When Carpenter ants find a food source in your home, you will most likely see them in large numbers, making it easy to tell when there is a carpenter ant infestation. Other telltale signs are small piles of sawdust mixed with bits of insulation and dead insects parts. You may also see the swarmers during their mating flight. These big, black flying ants are attracted to light and will swarm windows where the sunlight is streaming through.
Although rare, Carpenter ant damage can be extensive to structures and property. In Pest Control Technology’s Field Guide for the Management of Structure-Infesting Ants, it was recorded that an eight-foot long two-by-four weighed less than two pounds after it was used as a nesting site for Carpenter ants. Carpenter ants can also further weaken dead tree branches on your property. One strong wind and those branches could crush your car or ruin your shed.
Types of Carpenter Ants
Black Carpenter Ant Identification
Black Carpenter Ants are most common east of the Rocky Mountains, and are especially prevalent in New England. They are a dull black color and the workers range in size from ½ to ¼-inch. These large black ants have long yellow hairs on their abdomens. The colonies of Black Carpenter Ants can range from a couple thousand ants up to 15,000. They have a smaller number of satellite colonies than some of the other species of carpenter ants, usually up to 12.
Western Carpenter Ant Identification
Western Carpenter Ants have a black body with dark red legs and the workers range in size from ⅕ to ½-inch. These big black ants are most common in the western states, from California east to the Rocky Mountains. There can be up to 50,000 ants in a Western Carpenter Ant colony and a single colony can have 20 or more satellite colonies. Western Carpenter Ants infest buildings more often than any other kind of carpenter ant.
New York Carpenter Ant Identification
The New York Carpenter Ant is mostly black with a red upper back or thorax. Workers range in size from 3/16 to ⅜-inch. They are most common in Southern Canada and the Northern United States, east of the Dakotas. New York Carpenter Ants have small colonies, usually up to 3,000 workers. They live in trees and logs, but have sometimes been found living in cow manure.
Commonly described as: big black ants, large black ants
Carpenter Ants In The Home & The Garden
A carpenter ant infestation in your home will settle in areas where structural wood has been softened or compromised from a water leak. The ants will make a series of galleries in the wood by chewing off tiny pieces of wood and discarding this “sawdust” somewhere outside of the nest. These tunnels are smooth with almost a polished-wood look. Carpenter ant damage can occur even when building nests in some of the newer building materials, like the foam used behind siding or for insulation.
Like most ants, carpenter ants will eat almost anything, but their preferences really depend on the season. In the spring, they prefer protein-rich food and in the summer, carbohydrates. They will eat the most food during the fall in preparation for overwintering in the nest. Carpenter ants are always foraging for food, but are most active at night, when they can avoid being spotted by predators like lizards and birds.
Most Carpenter ant colonies have only one queen. In the case of carpenter ant infestations, it is important to know that the queen lives in the main colony located outside, while satellite colonies inhabited by workers, older larvae and pupae are established in nearby buildings. Swarmers appear in May and August for the Black Carpenter Ant and between February and June for the Western Carpenter Ant.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do carpenter ant bites look like?
Carpenter ant bites, although painful, do not create major wounds. In some cases, they may break your skin, but you shouldn’t need any medical attention for a carpenter ant bite.
Do carpenter ants eat wood?
Unlike termites, carpenter ants do not eat wood. Carpenter ant colonies excavate wood to create their nests. The workers bite off bits of wood and discard the pieces outside of the nest, creating little piles of sawdust. Carpenter ants will eat a variety of foods including dead insects and the honeydew made by aphids.
Benefits of Professional Carpenter Ant Pest Control
A pest management professional has the education, equipment and skills necessary to effectively address a carpenter ant problem. Finding and treating the large black ant colony can be challenging, especially if the main carpenter ants’ colony is hidden somewhere outside in the lawn. A pest management professional provides their expertise to identify the pest problem and determine the best possible solution to resolve the carpenter ant infestation.
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