Carpenter Ant IdentificationCarpenter ants are among the largest ants in Minnesota. There are several species of carpenter ants that may be found infesting homes and other buildings. Normally workers are black or red in color and range in size from 3/8 to 1/2 inch. Winged queen ants may be as large as one inch. However, size is not a reliable characteristic to identify carpenter ants. The workers of one species in Minnesota are no larger than 3/16 inch.
Ants are divided into different castes, i.e. workers, queens, and males (figure 1). Some ants, including carpenter ants, have polymorphic workers, which means that within one species the workers occur in different sizes. The best method to separate carpenter ants from other ants is by the following characteristics: 1) a waist with one node (petiole) and 2) a thorax with an evenly rounded upper surface (figure 2).
Figure 1. Carpenter ant castes, from left to right: queen, winged male, major worker, minor worker.
Figure 2. Carpenter ant worker
Figure 3. Typical non-carpenter ant worker
There are other ants that appear similar and are occasionally mistaken for carpenter ants. They may have one or two nodes. However, they can be distinguished from carpenter ants by the uneven profile of their thorax (figure 3). These ants are usually not wood-infesting, so it is important to correctly identify the ants before control is attempted as control strategies vary with different ant species.
Figure 4. Winged carpenter ant
Carpenter ants differ from termites by having dark-colored bodies, narrow waists, elbowed (bent) antennae, and if present, hind wings shorter than front wings (figure 4).Carpenter ants are very common and are frequently seen in the open.
Figure 5. Winged termite
Termites are light-colored, have no waist constriction, have straight antennae and, if present, wings are of equal length(figure 5). Termites are much less common. They avoid light and are rarely seen outside of their colony.
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Common Name: Carpenter Ants
Scientific Name: Camponotus species
Color: from red to black
Shape: segmented; oval Size 5/8”
Carpenter ants can and will establish a nest inside and outside of any type of structure. In some cases you can locate satellite or parent colonies outside a structure, these will be located in tree stumps, landscape timbers, wood piles or moist damp wood. You can locate trails in the early morning or early evening when the carpenter ants are foraging, locate the trails back and forth from parent colony and structure. Typically the interior locations of the carpenter ants will be near a moisture source kitchen, or bath areas. Look for an area that maybe gets more moisture from rain runoff then other areas of the structure.
Carpenter ants enter structures though openings or cracks while foraging for food. The appearance of large numbers of winged adults carpenter ants inside a structure indicates that the nest or nests exists indoors. Carpenter Ants don't eat wood, but they eat proteins and sugars. Carpenter ant wood damage is caused by tunneling into the structure. Once inside, they will try and locate a water source, food and use wood for their nest.
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Carpenter ants do not sting and usually don't bite humans. However, when irritated they can and will inflict a painful bite.
These ants can cause property damage to a structure. They usually invade wet, decayed wood but they can tunnel through dry undamaged wood as well. As you can see, it is important to get rid of carpenter ants to avoid property damage.
Eliminate sources of moisture, seal cracks around your foundation, and keep wood materials away from your home. Cut back bushes and branches will also eliminate sources of entry to your home.
Eliminating Carpenter Ants can be difficult and requires a multitude of control and exclusion techniques. This can involves moisture elimination, removing overhanging tree limbs, stumps, and firewood. Seal up entry points, cracks and crevices. It is helpful to locate the nest and satellite nest, but if you cannot locate them then use of Ant Bait (Advance Carpenter Ant Bait and Maxforce Carpenter Ant Bait) is very effective.
Areas where water leaks occur should be inspected they will be attractive to ants as well as Termites. Treat nests with a gel bait labeled for carpenter ants Maxforce Carpenter ant Gel Bait or use a labeled dust. Treat inside wall voids with a foam (premise Foam) or dust. You will want to treat the ant trails followed by workers when they forage with carpenter ant bait granules.
Carpenter Ant Control Kits Can be applied inside and outside for carpenter ant control
CB Foam Can be used in the nest area wall voids
Drione Dust for use in the nest area wall voids
Pyganic Dust for use in the nest area wall voids
Advance Carpenter Ant Bait for use on ant trails
Termidor for use outside on ant trails and nest perfect for large ongoing carpenter ant control problems
Controlling ants in structures need not be so difficult. To be successful, you must follow a few basic rules:
You cannot always find the colony of ants but placing bait or insecticides in their trails will control and eliminate the colony.
Places to look for Ants:
CARPETS Check around doors and fireplace
VEGETATION - Ants like to nest and forage in trails out of sight behind any vegetation, tree stumps, branches which rests against foundations, patios, etc. Pull back the vegetation to look for ants. Attempt to follow foraging ants back to their colony.
GROUND SURFACES Potted plants, compost bends, or any item that has ground contact could harbor a colony of ants.
MULCH - Mulch often harbors numerous colonies of ants such as pavement ants, fire ants, crazy ants and Argentine ants. Rake mulch back from the foundation to check for colonies.