What are Carpenter Ants?
Carpenter ants are appropriately named as they tunnel inside wood and build nests. Carpenter ants are one of the most destructive ants in the United States. They can grow between 1/4 and 1/2 inches in length. Carpenter ants are oval-shaped and have a segmented body. Workers have powerful mandibles that they use to cut through wood. Carpenter ants come in a variety of colors, including black, red or a mixture of both.
There are many species of adult ants, but they all come in different sizes and shapes. Each will have one of three roles within their colony: queens, males, or workers. Queens are the fertile females who lay all of the eggs in a colony. Workers are wingless females who gather food, feed the larvae and defend the colony. The only task of male ants is to mate during the swarming process.
Behavior and Habitat
Carpenter ants can be found both indoors and outdoors in moist, and in decaying or hollow wood.
Carpenter ants don't eat wood like termites, but rather remove wood from their nests and place it outside in small piles. Carpenter ants will eat a wide variety of foods, including sweets and meats. They also eat other insects.
Attraction to Moisture
Carpenter ants can live in dead or living trees, stumps, and rotting logs in natural settings. They may build their nests in homes or buildings that contain wood, particularly if it has been exposed to extreme moisture.
Queens lay 9-16 eggs in their first year. They can live up to 25-years. In 6-12 weeks, eggs complete their lifecycle.
What is the life cycle of ants?
There are four stages in the ant life cycle: egg, larvae (pupae), adult, and pupae. This is called complete metamorphosis. It can take several weeks or even months for the entire life cycle to be completed, depending on the species of ant and other environmental factors.
If a female ant successfully mats with a male, it will be a queen ant and lay eggs. The nesting place of a fertile queen is a safe area where they can build a nest (colony), and start laying eggs. Ant eggs are only one-half of a millimeter wide. They are transparent, oval and white.
A grub-like, legless larvae emerges after about 1-2 weeks of egg stage. The larvae have a voracious appetite and adult ants spend a lot of time feeding them.
The pupal stage is formed after the larvae shed their skin and molt. The pupae look a lot like adults, except that their antennae and legs are folded against the pupal body. Although ant pupae appear initially white, they gradually become darker as they age. The ant species may allow pupae to be kept in protective cocoons.
The adult ant emerges once the pupal stage has ended. The adult ant is fully grown at the time of its emergence. However, as it ages, it becomes darker in color. There are three types of colony castes for adult ants: queens, workers and males. Queens are the fertile females who lay all of the eggs in a colony. The workers are females who do not reproduce but gather food, feed the larvae and clean up the nest. Workers have no wings and are seen searching for food or protecting the colony against intruders. The queens are the only task of the male ants, who are winged.
Galleries & Nests
The genus Camponotus ant species are also known as carpenter bugs. They prefer to build their colonies in galleries made from damp or damaged wood. To form their nests, they cut holes in the wood grain and create passageways that allow them to move from one section to the next. This activity results in wood shavings mixed together with parts of dead insects, which can be used to identify nesting areas.
Carpenter ants remove termites from their nesting areas. Their galleries aren't clogged with mud and moist soil, as termite galleries are. Their galleries are kept as smooth as sandpapered wooden by the workers.
Parent vs. Satellite Colonies
There are two types of nests for Carpenter Ants: satellite colonies and parent colonies. The queen, her brood and workers make up the parent colonies. Satellite colonies are made up of older larvae and workers. Satellite colonies are created by workers when the parent colony is short of space or if there is enough food and water. One parent colony may have several satellite colonies.