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Description: The black carpenter ant, Camponotus pennsylvanicus in the east and Camponotus mode in the west, are the most thoroughly studied species in the United States. Other Species of Camponotus are distributed throughout the country. Carpenter ants are among the largest ants found in the United States, ranging from 1/8 to 1/2 inch long; the queens are slightly larger. The workers of an established colony vary in size. Commonly, they are black; however, some species are red and black, solid red, or brown. They have one node in the petiole and a circle of tiny hairs on the tip of the abdomen. When seen from the side, the thorax is evenly rounded.
The adult winged female or queen loses her wings soon after mating with the smaller males and selects a secluded nesting site where she raises the first brood of workers. These workers are very small but assume the care of the larvae and the queen following their maturation. Future workers are larger than those from the first brood having received better care. All workers are wingless.
Mature colonies range in size from several thousand workers to 10-15,000 including satellite nests for C. pennsylvancus; C. modoc colonies average 10-20,000 workers up to 100,000 workers. When raised at 90°F, black carpenter ants complete their life cycle(egg to adult) in about 60 days. Swarmers do not appear in the colony for several years - usually three to four years for C. pennsylvanicus ad six to 10 years for C. modoc. Swarming for these occurs May through August and February through June, respectively.
Carpenter ants are social insects that usually nest within the wood. They commonly excavate galleries or tunnels within rotting and sound trees and in structures that readily infest wood, foam insulation, and cavities. They prefer to excavate wood damaged by fungus and often are found in conjunction with moisture problems. The workers excavate the nest, forage for food, and care for the young. Carpenter ants feed on sugar solutions from honey-due producing insects such as aphids, sweets and the juices of insects they capture. They do well after sunset and continue feeding through the early morning hours. Foraging trails can extend up to 300 feet and, on close inspection, can be seen on the ground as narrow worn paths.
Carpenter ants enter structures through gaps and cracks while foraging for food. However, the appearance of large numbers of winged adults within a structure indicates that the nest(s) exist indoors. The worker pushes wood shavings and pieces of foam insulation out of the nest through sites like openings in the surface of the wood or other nesting-site material. This material, which may contain fragments of other insects, and structural moisture problems are clues to look for when trying to locate a colony within an infested structure. Rustling sounds in wall voids are another indication that there is a nearby colony.