Insect Identification
Insect Identification

Black Carpenter Ant - (Camponotus pennsylvanicus)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 10/20/2014

The bulky Black Carpenter Ant is a unwelcome house guest for good reason.

Black Carpenter Ants are relatively large compared to other ant species. Recognized mostly by size and color, this type of ant also has one segment at its waist and then a long abdomen with lightly-colored gray-black hairs on it. Their antennae bend just after coming out of the head.

Their name suggests that it is an ant that builds, and it does that very well. The actual places ant nests are built in can be quite a nuisance for humans. Carpenter ants are unlike termites as they do not eat wood. They prefer to live inside wood, not consume it.

They build colonies of up to 10,000 ants in dead trees, telephone poles, wood piles and sheds, under house insulation or inside the walls of houses. Infestations can cause a lot of damage and are best removed by a professional exterminator.

Black Carpenter Ants do bite, though they cannot sting. Another defensive maneuver they use is spraying formic acid at a possible threat. All members of the family Formicidae build up an internal store of formic acid and use it to ward off predators.

Black Carpenter Ants feed on plant juices, fungus, food scraps, and even other insects. Most food foraging is done under cover of night.

Worker ants cannot fly and live to solely to serve the one queen in a mature colony. Solitary scouts are sent to forage for food and return to the spot with more ants later. Males have wings and do fly as do potential queens. From late spring to the middle of summer, they form swarms as they are actively trying to breed. The queen ant produces eggs quickly and it takes little time for a small colony to grow into a massive one. A large colony will start expanding to smaller satellite colonies is space is limited.

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Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Common name: Black Carpenter Ant
Scientific Name: Camponotus pennsylvanicus
Other Names: Black Ant, Carpenter Ant

  Kingdom: Animalia
   Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
     Order: Hymenoptera
      Family: Formicidae
       Genus: Camponotus
        Species: pennsylvanicus

Adult Size (Length): 6mm to 13mm (0.24in to 0.51in)

Identifying Colors: black, brown, yellow, gray

Additional Descriptors: hairy, biting, jaws, sprays, acid, formic, harmful, stingless, flying

North American Reach (Though Not Limited To*): Alabama; Arizona; Arkansas; Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Hawaii; Idaho; Illinois; Indiana; Iowa; Kansas; Kentucky; Louisiana; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; Michigan; Minnesota; Mississippi; Missouri; Montana; Nebraska; Nevada; New Hampshire; New Jersey; New Mexico; New York; North Carolina; North Dakota; Ohio; Oklahoma; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; South Carolina; South Dakota; Tennessee; Texas; Utah; Vermont; Virginia; West Virginia; Wisconsin; Wyoming; Alberta; Manitoba; New Brunswick; Newfoundland and Labrador; Nova Scotia; Ontario; Prince Edward Island; Quebec; Saskatchewan; Mexico

* Keep in mind that insect reach is not governed by lines on a map and therefore may appear in areas/regions/states beyond those listed above.