Black Carpenter Ant

Genus: Camponotus
Species: pennsylvanicus

Black Carpenter Ant Photo - Copyright Cotinis

Description:  Depending on where black carpenter ants nest during the year determines whether they are seen as an interesting insect or a costly pest. Carpenter ants naturally nest in dead logs and wood in forests.  They chew (but don’t eat) wood to build nest cavities and tunnels. This action helps in decomposition and breaking apart decaying logs. However, when eastern carpenter ants build a similar nest in the side of buildings or the support beams of a home, they become a serious pest. Their nest could weaken the structure of a house.

Black carpenter ants live in colonies with workers and a queen. Most workers are wingless.  They are about ½ inch long and completely black with yellowish hairs on the abdomen. The queen is slightly bigger with a larger thorax and wings. After a few years, when the colony is large enough, the queen will produce winged males and females that will leave the nest to breed and start new colonies.  

Most of the black carpenter ants you see will be workers. They can be told apart from other ants by their all black bodies and yellowish hairs on the abdomen. If you see carpenter ants in your home, do not immediately assume they have set up a colony inside. They might just be searching for food. Remember: carpenter ants do not eat the wood, but only chew it to make a nest. Therefore, workers spend a lot of their time looking for food, such as plants and smaller insects.

The best way to protect your home from a black carpenter ant infestation is to keep outdoor wood structures dry. Black carpenter ants can easily chew through wet wood.

Range: Black carpenter ants live east of the Rocky Mountains in woodlands, forest edges and suburban communities.

Fun Fact: Black carpenter ants are actually farmers! One of their favorite foods is a dew-like juice produced by smaller insects, called aphids. The black carpenter ants will feed and protect aphids in order to eat the sugary dew. 

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