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Carpenter ants are
distributed widely throughout the United States, causing severe structural
damage to many homes!
SUBFAMILY CHARACTERISTICS: FORMICINAE.
Abdominal pedicel composed
of one segment. Sting absent. Tip of abdomen with a circular
fringe of hair.]
Please Note: The
information presented is taken DIRECTLY from the 7th edition of;
Handbook of Pest Control
We wish to give
full credit to Arnold Mallis for his lifelong contribution to the Pest
WORKER SPECIFIC CHARACTERISTICS.
Profile of thorax is evenly rounded and the workers are
These long-legged; swiftly moving creatures are among our
largest ants, which often invade homes foraging for food or for nest building.
The workers are highly polymorphic,
that is they vary greatly in size ranging from 1/4 inch to more than 3/4
inch. The queens may be more than1/2 inch long. The black carpenter
ant, Camponotus pennsylvanicus (DeGeer), is the most common carpenter ant in the
eastern states. It is a dull black color with an abdomen covered with long
yellowish hairs pressed against the body surface.
Foraging workers may be from ¼ to 1/2 inch/ 6 to 12 mm
or more in length. Other
common eastern species include the red carpenter ant, C. ferrugineus (Fab.), and
the Florida carpenter ant, C. abdominalis. Although found in much of the eastern
United States, C. rasilis Wheeler, is probably one of the most common species
encountered in the Gulf Coast states. Its head, thorax and petiole are reddish
and the gaster is black. Worker size varies from 4 to 9 mm long. A species found
throughout most of the United States is C. nearcticus Emery, Which is smaller
with the workers being 4.5 to 7.5 mm long.
In the West there are several species, but C. modoc Mayer is the
most common (Story, 1988). The body of this ant is black, but the legs are deep
red and the abdomen has long yellow hairs. Foraging workers may be from 1/5 to
1/2 inch/5 to 12 mm in length. Other species of carpenter ants in the western
states include: black, C. laevigatus (F. Smith); brownish 'with black, C. hyatti
Henry, C. clarithorax Emery, or red and black, C. vicinus Mayr.
BIOLOGY. Carpenter ants, because of their large size and
biting ability, attract more than a passing glance from even the neophyte nature
lover. It is a common experience of hikers, who seek the comfort of a woodland
log, to find themselves suddenly beset by large numbers of these biting ants.
Carpenter ants are distributed widely throughout the
United States and range-from sea level to well above 9,000-feet in the
western-mountain ranges. They very often are pests in lawns as well
as homes. Since theirs is the habit of dwelling in and excavating wood, they
were given the common name of “carpenter ant."
The colony is ordinarily initiated by one queen, who begins the
nest beneath a rock or in the soil, or in an insect-bored tunnel in a tree, etc.
The queen lays only a few eggs and these hatch into very small workers. The
minims or small workers then go forth to forage. The small workers then feed the
young and the queen, whose sole interest in life is the production of eggs. If
the environment is propitious, the colony thrives. The pupae are enclosed in
cocoons, which are referred to by most individuals as "ant eggs." When the
nesting site is in wood, it often resembles an ornate carving due to the
multiplicity of the galleries. These galleries are so smooth, they appear to
have been sandpapered. The carpenter ants ordinarily excavate that portion of
the wood softened by decay or by the attacks of other- insects. However, Fowler
(1986) stated that
carpenter ants are more often found in sound wood
than rotten wood.
Pricer (1908) made a detailed study of the life history of
the black carpenter ant in Illinois at a temperature of 70° to 90° F/21 to 32°C.
The female laid 22 eggs in 15 days. The egg stage took 24 days, larval stage 21
days and pupal stage 21 days (66 days from egg to adult). Under natural
conditions, the larval stage may be of much longer duration during the winter.
The winged sexual forms were observed to emerge about the first of July. Large
colonies may be characterized by winged males and females during the winter.
The colony does not produce the winged forms until it
is more than two years old. These winged sexuals, which may be
produced during one summer, over winter in the parental nest and emerge for
their marriage flight from May to July. One colony had as many as 3,212 worker
Blake (1940) notes there may be more than one queen in a colony
and the largest workers may lay eggs, which only produce male ants. After
mating, the queen makes or finds a smaller chamber in which she remains, sealed
up, until her first brood of workers is adult. This requires at least two months
and sometimes as long as 10 months." Most of the work of the carpenter ant is
done by smaller workers.
Anon. (1959) reports these ants
are able to withstand cold because they generate glycerol in their
bodies whenever the temperature falls below a certain point. This is nature's
way of manufacturing' 'antifreeze." The addition of tri-glycerides occurs with
many other insects including several stored product insects (Granovsky, 1978).
Ants of the genus Camponotus apparently have better eyesight than ants of most
other genera. Consequently, they are successful hunters. The carpenter ants also
attend aphids and other honeydew-secreting insects.
CARPENTER ANTS IN THE HOME. Furniss (1944), who studied the control of
carpenter ants in Oregon, discusses their infestations in homes as follows:
"Where an infestation is long standing and the colony
is a large one consisting of several thousand ants, structural damage is
frequently extensive enough to require major repairs. If the infestation is
noted at an early stage, however, all that may be necessary is to get rid of the
ants. But this can be a costly and exasperating experience."
Granovsky has found that in talking with pest control personnel coast to coast
during 1988 that carpenter ants were the most frequently encountered and
Many firms reported “callbacks" for additional
service and many indicate no other insect pest is as hard to control.
Dukes and Robinson (1982) reported that for PCO's in four eastern states, only
20 percent did more than 40 jobs for carpenter ants each year and 50 percent
required return visits.
Furniss (1944) further indicated: "Carpenter ant colonies become established in
new situations either through invasion by a fertile queen and development of
her' progeny, or through immigration of all or part of an existing colony. The
latter seems to be the more common way in which houses become infested through
Evidence gathered over a period of several years
shows that houses near wooded areas, 'stump' land or brush-covered vacant lots
are most likely to become infested, although it is by no means uncommon for
carpenter ants to invade dwellings in thickly populated districts of a city.
Ants from any neighboring colony may move into a house, especially when
seriously disturbed, as often happens in the clearing of building sites.
Cases are on record where disturbed carpenter ants become established in
before the homeowners moved in. Usually they take the course of
least resistance and enter any available openings about the foundations, but
occasionally they exhibit considerable ingenuity in gaining access to a house,
and have even been known to enter along telephone and
electric wire. (Note: They may enter the home by crawling on branches that
contact the roof and other parts ot the house.) Often the point, or points, of
entry are considerable distance from the place where the brood galleries are
excavated:' Carpenter ants have been observed foraging 300 feet/91 m from their
nest. Scent trails are laid between food sources and the nest.
Furniss (1944) stated:
"All kinds of houses, from the oldest to the newest
and from the most poorly constructed to the best, may become infested. In
general, the houses most subject to attack are frame buildings without basements
or with only part basements, those with very low foundations, those with open
rambling porches, and those of loose construction, such as rustic cabins.
The ants show some preference for moist rotting timbers about the foundations,
but readily mine sound dry wood any place in a house. Among the
commonly mined portions are porch pillars and supporting timbers, sills,
girders, joists, studs and casings of houses, garages and other buildings; Dukes
and Robinson (1982) reported there is a tendency for older homes to become
infested, yet 79 percent of the PCOs reported a 25 percent or less association
with actual structural damage.
According to Furniss (1944), "When a house becomes thoroughly infested there is
little likelihood that the fact will be long un-noted by the human occupants.
The continued presence of numerous workers, whether they are attracted to food
or are merely running around the rooms, is strong evidence that a colony is
established in the house. On warm days early in the
spring, many people first become aware of carpenter ants in their homes when
swarms of large winged ants emerge from the walls and try to escape through the
windows. The appearance of these winged forms is an almost certain sign of
for the main part of the colony remains behind and continues to develop,
unless controlled. A faint, rustling sound in walls, floors and
woodwork is another common clue to the presence of carpenter ants. Often the
workers make slit-like openings through the surface of infested wood and through
these openings expel their borings, which accumulate beneath in characteristic
piles of fibrous 'sawdust'. Such refuse piles can be found most frequently in
basements, in dark closets, under porches and in similar out-of-the-way places.
They are a sure sign that a colony is established…"
In the eastern United States, Dukes and Robinson (1982) found that in 1980
(Note: at time of updating this website it is 25 years later - 2005)
control charges ranged from $100 to $3,000, with an average of $206 per job. The
highest charge by one PCO was just under $10,000 but 70 percent of the pest
control operators charged more than $100 and 12 percent indicated costs to the
on average of more than $300 per job (1980 prices). A solid review of
control considerations is provided by Story (1988).
Carpenter ants represent a growing profit center for pest control operators
interested in tapping into this lucrative market.
However, it takes specialized expertise, along with a commitment to
quality workmanship and proper customer relations to do the job right.
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