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Carpenter Ant (Camponotus spp.)

Detailing the identifying qualities of the Carpenter Ant, including physical features and territorial reach.

 Updated: 2/14/2018; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©

  Carpenter Ant  
Picture of Carpenter-Ant
Picture of Carpenter-Ant Picture of Carpenter-AntPicture of Carpenter-AntPicture of Carpenter-Ant

Social and experienced in wood-working, Carpenter Ants may vary in color by region, but they are all mammoths in the Ant family.

Carpenter Ants are the largest ants on the continent. Some species are black, others are reddish brown. Short hairs form rings around their abdomen and clusters on the head and thorax. Their huge jaws are adept at shaving timber, eating other insects, and drinking plant juices. They are not poisonous and do not have stingers, but the bite of a Carpenter Ant can still hurt thanks to its large mouth parts. Carpenter Ants are also able to spray formic acid from the tip of the abdomen, which may irritate skin and eyes. The acid is a defensive chemical used to deter predators from eating them.

Carpenter Ants tunnel through dead or decaying wood to build colonies. They do not eat wood, they just live in it. Because wood is used to build almost every building, occasionally the ants move into homes, offices and other buildings. Construction of an ant colony begins with boring through weak wood, but they can also chew through healthy, living tree roots if more space is needed. A colony has one queen, many workers, and some scouts. In order to prevent re-population of a colony in buildings, the egg-laying queen needs to be killed, not just the workers. Professional exterminators are helpful in eliminating ant presence in human dwellings.

The diet of this ant is varied. It eats other insects, plant juices, and the liquid 'honeydew' secreted from the bottoms of aphids. (Ants shepherd aphids on plants in order to collect this sweet serum.) In hot summer months, Carpenter Ants are more active at night. An old, established colony will eventually produce long-winged males and queens called alates. The winged ants fly out of the colony to mate, creating new or satellite colonies. Swarms of alates are usually seen in the spring. This is the only time ants will develop wings and they only do it for this purpose.

Picture of the Carpenter Ant
Picture of the Carpenter Ant

Carpenter Ant Information

Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Common Name: Carpenter Ant
Scientific Name: Camponotus spp.

Taxonomy Hierarchy

 Arrow graphic Kingdom: Animalia
  Arrow graphic Phylum: Arthropoda
   Arrow graphic Class: Insecta
    Arrow graphic Order: Hymenoptera
     Arrow graphic Family: Formicidae
      Arrow graphic Genus: Camponotus
       Arrow graphic Species: spp.

Size, Identifying Tags and Territorial Reach

Size (Adult, Length): Size (Adult, Length): 6 mm to 13 mm (0.234 inches to 0.507 inches)
Identifying Colors: red, black, brown
Additional Descriptors: large, jaws, mouth, big, fast

North American Territorial Reach (Though Not Limited To): Alabama; Alaska; Arizona; Arkansas; California; 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; Oregon; Pennsylvania; Rhode Island; South Carolina; South Dakota; Tennessee; Texas; Utah; Vermont; Virginia; Washington; West Virginia; Wisconsin; Wyoming; Alberta; British Columbia; Manitoba; New Brunswick; Newfoundland and Labrador; Nova Scotia; Ontario; Prince Edward Island; Quebec; Saskatchewan; Mexico

A Note About Territorial Reach: Keep in mind that an insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above. Insects are driven by environmental factors, food supplies and mating patterns and do not nescessarily work within hard-and-fast territorial lines like we humans do.

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