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What Do Carpenter Ants Look Like?

Last Updated: 14.07.24


Carpenter ants are among the largest types of ants you can find, with bodies that go up to 0.5 inches in length, a one-node waist, and round thorax. They are black or sometimes feature red colors, and getting rid of them is not easy, so check out some effective natural ant killer reviews

We all know what ants look like, but the interesting part about these insects is that there are thousands of known species living around the world. They can adapt and survive, which led them to inhabit almost any type of land. The only exceptions are the really inhospitable environments, such as Antarctica. 

Among all of the various ant species, there is the carpenter ant. You might not know this, but these insects actually play a very important role in the ecosystem, as they help with the decomposition of decaying wood plants and trees. Just like pretty much any type of living creature, they serve a purpose in the wild. 

On the other hand, they can also infiltrate buildings and homes, as they nest in moist wood, and this is not something that property owners are happy about. Given their numbers, they can cause significant damage, sometimes even on a structural level. That’s why the first step in preventing such an issue is properly identifying carpenter ants. 

If you suspect that you are dealing with an infestation, then you shouldn’t wait at all before taking all the necessary measures to get rid of these insects. We thought it would be a good idea to take a closer look at how you can identify carpenter ants and what particularities you should be aware of, so this is what we’re going to do in the next lines. 


What do they look like? 

As we’ve already mentioned, the number of ant species living in the world is very high, with studies saying that over 12,000 types of ants are known until now. The good news is that out of all of these, only a few can become household pests, which makes the task of protecting one’s home a lot easier. 

Going back to carpenter ants, the part of properly identifying them usually comes down to a few simple points. One key characteristic you should know is that out of all of the ants that can make their way into your home, carpenter ones are the largest. On average, their bodies are between 6 and 12mm in length, which means that the largest individuals can be around half an inch long. 

Next, you can also take a closer look at their thorax and abdomen. Carpenter ants have this particularity, namely that their bodies have a single nod at the waist. This way, you can tell them apart from other types of ants known as two-node ones. Acrobat ants, pharaoh, pavement, and little black ants, for example, belong to the latter category. 

Of course, given that there are so many different ant species, many of them can have a single nod and still live around your home. Field ants, as well as large yellow ants, fall into this category, so if you need to further determine if you are dealing with carpenter ants or another type, the thorax can be a very good indicator. 

Those belonging to the carpenter species always have a rounded thorax, while the others have an unevenly shaped one. Color can also be a good indicator, given that the ants we are discussing in this article are either almost or entirely black. Some types might also feature some reddish coloring. 


Can carpenter ants be flying ants? 

It’s important to make a distinction when it comes to flying ants, in general, namely that they are not a separate species, but a caste of ants. When a large colony matures, it produces winged males and females for reproductive purposes. This means that the winged insects have one task, namely that of leaving the nest in order to establish a new colony elsewhere. 

That’s why you can often see swarmers (as these winged ants are also called) around windows and houses. This also means that pretty much any type of ant can have a winged version. When it comes to carpenter ants, it’s good to know that their winged counterparts are usually larger than the terrestrial version, which means that they are even easier to notice. 

When these swarmers mate, the female usually becomes the queen of a new colony, while the male dies after the mating process is over. 


Ants or termites? 

Some of you might wonder if the problem you are dealing with is one of carpenter ants or termites. In fact, this is a very important thing to determine, given that the two species come with certain particularities. Even more important is to know whether the swarmers you’ve noticed around your property are termites or carpenter ants. 

Most termite species produce winged versions that feature a black body, so you might think at first that you are dealing with a type of ant. However, you may want to take a good look at the size of the body. Termite swarmers are noticeably smaller compared to carpenter ant swarmers, and no matter what type of termite we are talking about, it should fit onto a dime. 

Carpenter ants, on the other hand, are larger than a dime. Furthermore, termite swarmers do not have the distinctive waist that ant swarmers do, so this is a good indicator as well if you are dealing with a large population that needs to be kept under control. The color of the wings might help as well since the carpenter type has yellowish ones, and termites have white ones. 

Depending on how close you can get to them for an inspection, the antennae can also give you a hand in determining what type of insect you are dealing with. Termites have straight antennae or slightly curved ones, while carpenter ants feature an elbow in their antennae. 

However, no matter what type of insect is present in or around your home, if we’re talking about a significant infestation that has every chance of getting out of hand, if it hasn’t done so already, then you should talk to a professional pest control company that can provide the most effective solutions. 

Both types of insects can cause significant damage by chewing on wood, so you should never leave them be without taking any measures. 



What spots do carpenter ants prefer? 

As their name suggests, these little insects are prone to find wood sources and hang out around it, creating nests. If they have already gotten inside your home and you start seeing piles of wood shavings, then you might want to check out any wooden cabinets or desks that you have around. It’s good to know that these ants don’t actually eat wood, but they burrow in it. 

Depending on how your home is built, they can also live within the walls, and in case there’s a significant infestation, you might hear some rustling sound if you gently tap against a wall. They also prefer areas such as window frames, as well as spaces with water sources. It’s not uncommon to find carpenter ants living in a bathroom or a kitchen. 

Ant workers usually come out during the night or early in the morning, so these are the times during which you should check out the areas where you think they might live. If you are not a fan of insects, in general, then you might wonder if these ants can cause any harm to humans. 

The truth is that they can, in fact, bite but they rarely do so when it comes to humans. Moreover, they are not a venomous type of ant, so there’s little chance that they can cause any harm. The one thing you should fear is the structural damage that they can cause to an entire building. If you see small holes in the wooden structures, chances are you are dealing with an infestation. 

If you do determine that a colony is sharing your living space, then it’s probably a satellite one that enjoys the warmth, nearby food sources, and safety that your home offers. The bad part is that getting rid of such a colony is no easy task. 

You will need to find the source, namely the nests, and do your best to eradicate the entire colony, which means that you need to look outside the building as well. If you deal with the indoor satellite colony only, another one will probably take its place after a while. 



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