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Carpenter Ant (Camponotus spp.)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Carpenter Ant

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

Updated: 01/03/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
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.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
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Taxonomic Hierarchy

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

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Camponotus spp.
Category: Bee, Ant, Wasp and Similar
Size (Adult; Length): 6mm to 13mm (0.23" to 0.51")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: red; black; brown
Descriptors: large; jaws; mouth; big; fast

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 6mm (0.2in) and 13mm (0.5in)
Lo: 6mm
Md: 9.5mm
Hi: 13mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Carpenter Ant may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Carpenter Ant. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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