The worker carpenter ant ranges in length from 1/8 – 1/2 inch, with the queens being slightly larger. Carpetner ants are most commonly black, although some species are red, red and black, or even brownish in color.
Carpenter ants are social insects and prefer nesting in wood. Carpenter ants are active year-round and can be found both indoors and outside. They commonly hollow out galleries or tunnels in trees, structures, wood, and foam insulation. Carpenter ants typically seek wood that has been softened by moisture, decay or other insects.
Carpenter ants have main colonies and sub (satellite) colonies. The main colony takes about five years to mature. Once mature, the large colony needs help so it sends out swarmers (winged ants) that locate a new nesting spot in the vicinity where the sub colonies can thrive. Once a spot is found, they shed their wings and start a new colony. Parent colonies have a single queen, brood and about 2,000 workers, while satellite colonies have no egg-laying queens, larvae or eggs, but contain thousands of workers.
Carpenter ants do not actually feed on wood. They feed actively from sunset until the early morning hours on most human foods, particularly proteins and sweets. They also feed on insects.
Life Cycle & Reproduction
Soon after mating, swarmers lose their wings. The female selects a nesting site, and begins the process of hollowing out tunnels and galleries in wood to lay her eggs. Mature colonies can range in size from two to four thousand.
Carpenter ant infestations can become severe if left untreated, and continue to expand by creating satellite colonies. Although the damage caused by carpenter ants is not as severe as the damage caused by termites – carpenter ants may cause significant damage over a period of years. An indication of possible infestation is evidence of sawdust, pieces of insulation, nesting materials, and winged adults, known as swarmers.