Carpenter ants (Camponotus spp.) are large (0.3 to 1.0 in or 0.76 to 2.54 cm) antsindigenous to many forested parts of the world. They prefer dead, damp wood in which to build nests. They do not consume it, however, unlike termites. Sometimes, carpenter ants hollow out sections of trees. They also commonly infest wooden buildings and structures, and are a widespread nuisance and major cause of structural damage. The most likely species to be infesting a house in the United States is the black carpenter ant(Camponotus pennsylvanicus). However, over a thousand other species are in the genusCamponotus.
Carpenter ant species reside both outdoors and indoors in moist, decaying, or hollow wood. They cut “galleries” into the wood grain to provide passageways for movement from section to section of the nest. Certain parts of a house, such as around and under windows, roof eaves, decks and porches, are more likely to be infested by carpenter ants because these areas are most vulnerable to moisture.
Carpenter ants have been known to construct extensive underground tunneling systems. These systems often lead to and end at some food source – often aphid colonies, where the ants extract and feed on honeydew. These tunneling systems also often exist in trees. The colonies typically include a central “parent” colony surrounded and supplemented by smaller satellite colonies.
Carpenter ants are foragers that typically eat parts of other dead insects or substances derived from other insects. Common foods for them include insect parts, “honey dew” produced by aphids, or some secretions from plants. Carpenter ants can increase the survivability of aphids when they attend to them. They attend to any aphid species, but can also express preference for specific ones.
Most species of carpenter ants forage at night. When foraging, they usually collect and consume dead insects. Some species less commonly collect live insects. When they discover a dead insect, workers surround it and extract its bodily fluids to be carried back to the nest. The remaining chitin-based shell is left behind. Occasionally, the ants bring the chitinous head of the insect back to the nest, where they also extract its inner tissue. The ants can forage individually or in small or large groups, though they often opt to do so individually. Different colonies in close proximity may have overlapping foraging regions, though they typically do not assist each other in foraging. Their main food sourcesnormally include proteins and carbohydrates.
Carpenter ants work to build the nests that house eggs in environments with roughly 12-15% humidity due to their sensitivity to environmental humidity. These nests are called primary nests. Satellite nests are constructed once the primary nest is established and has begun to mature. Residents of satellite nests include older larvae, pupae, and some winged individuals. Only eggs, the newly hatchedlarvae, workers, and the queen reside in the primary nests. Since satellite nests do not have environmentally sensitive eggs, the ants can construct them in rather diverse locations that can actually be relatively dry.
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- Cranshaw, Whitney; Richard Redak (2013). Bugs Rule!: An Introduction to the World of Insects. Princeton Univ. Press. p. 329.ISBN 140084892X.
- Strauss, Levi (January 2005). “Carpenter Ant Fact Sheet”. Spokane County Extension. Washington State Univ., Spokane, WA. Retrieved February 19, 2014.
- Colony Size and Polygyny in Carpenter Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) Roger D. Akre, Laurel D. Hansen and Elizabeth A. Myhre Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society , Vol. 67, No. 1 (Jan., 1994), pp. 1-9
- Pricer, John. The Life History of the Carpenter Ant. Biological Bulletin , Vol. 14, No. 3 (Feb., 1908), pp. 177-218
- Yamamoto, Marcela, and Kleber Del-Claro. “Natural History and Foraging Behavior of the Carpenter Ant Camponotus Sericeiventris Guérin, 1838 (Formicinae, Campotonini) in the Brazilian Tropical Savanna.” Acta Ethologica 11.2 (2008): 55-65. Print.
- Pararas — Carayannis, Carolyn. “Carpenter Ants.” Colony Behaviors of Carpenter Ants. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 October 2013.
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