- Common Name(s): Carpenter Ant
- Order: Hymenoptera
- Family: Formicidae
- Common Species: Camponotus pennsylvanicus
- Commonly Confused With: Field Ants
How to Identify?
Carpenter ants are uniformly (solidly) color, but they come in a wide variety of colors: black, red, brown, tan. They can also have hairs covering their backside (abdomen). They are the largest pest ant in Georgia, ranging from 0.6 to 1.7 centimeters in size. When looking at the abdomen (back section of an insect) you will see one node (bump) connecting it to the thorax (middle section of an insect). You can differentiate termites and ants by looking at the antenna. Ants have an antenna that looks bent or elbowed while termites have a straight, beaded looking antenna.
Where do they live?
These ants usually live outdoors in soft, rotting, or moist wood. Railroad timbers, such as those used as retaining walls or decoration, are often great habitats for carpenter ants. They do not eat wood but hollow it out to create nests in the cavities. Indoors, colonies are commonly found in foam insulation or damp and damaged wood in crawl spaces or wall voids.
What do they eat?
Outdoors, carpenter ants usually feed on honeydew produced by sap-feeding insects. They protect the sap feeders and, in return, the sap-feeders allow the ants to feed on their honeydew (sweet secretions from the backside of the insect). This process is referred to as trophobiosis. They also hunt or scavenge for insects as a form of protein. Indoors, they search for protein or sugar sources to eat, preferably sugars or sweets.
What do they do?
These ants do not have a stinger and, as such, are incapable of inflicting a sting. They can be rather tricky to treat as they are nocturnal and forage for food mainly at night. Most people think these ants eat wood, but this is not true. They inhabit moist or damaged wood, so carpenter ants can be a sign of a greater issue at hand. While these ants cannot sting directly they should not be handled as they can bite and spray formic acid into the wound, which would not be comfortable!
If there are enough carpenter ants in the wall you can hear them chewing. They almost resemble the sound of a rattlesnake in the wall!
- Trophobiosis. (n.d.). Retrieved November 6, 2018, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trophobiosis;
- Black Carpenter Ant. (2007). [PDF] (pp. 1, 2). Retrieved from https://flrec.ifas.ufl.edu/media/flrecifasufledu/pdfs/pestants/BlackCarpenterAnt.pdf
Author: G. Wyatt West– B.S.E.S University of Georgia 2017; Board Certified Entomologist
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