Black Carpenter Ant (Camponotus pennsylvanicus)

Black Carpenter Ant (Camponotus pennsylvanicus)

The Black Carpenter Ant (Camponotus pennsylvanicus) is a member of the Ants Family (Formicidael) and is very common around French Hill Pond. Unlike termites, these ants cannot digest cellulose and do not eat wood but will tunnel through wood and cause considerable damage to buildings. The family name is from the Latin for "ant."

Ant species, like bees, are divided into castes. They range in size from ¼ to ½ inch (6 to 12 millimeters) some may be even larger. Carpenter ant castes are males, major and minor workers and the queen. The worker ants vary in size. The queen is the largest of these ants. All Black Carpenter Ants have bodies in three parts: the head, thorax and abdomen. They have a thin "waist" between the thorax and abdomen. The bodies are all black. The thorax and waist may be browner. The abdomen has yellow to gray hairs upon close examination. When a colony develops to the point that a new nest is appropriate, the male ants will develop wings on the thorax to search for new places to colonize.

These ants eat other insects, grease and anything sweet. They forage as far as 100 yards (92 meters) from their nest.

Carpenter ants do not sting but they do bite and this bite can inject formic acid causing a stinging sensation.

They build nests in decaying wood. The nests may contain several chambers.

Termites are rare in Downeast Maine. However, Black Carpenter Ants are very common. They serve to help breakdown dead wood. Houses and other buildings are attractive to these ants particularly if there is moisture and food. Therefore, Black Carpenter Ants are most likely to be found in kitchens and bathrooms. They will tunnel through dry wood if there is food and water near. However, they prefer rotting wood. The best way to control Black Carpenter Ants is to remove sources of moisture and food. Decks, porches and similar exterior wood structures should be constructed of pressure-treated wood. Many, if not most, pesticides sold as ant killers DO NOT kill Black Carpenter Ants. If an infestation is discovered, purchase pesticides that specify toxicity to Carpenter Ants. The conditions that attracted the ants must be corrected or the colony will likely survive the pesticides because much of the nest may be inaccessible and contain eggs not affected by the pesticides. Fix water leaks and rain gutters that may be causing excessive moisture to enter wood. The nest should be identified and any structural wood in which the nest is found replaced or filled if the infestation caused minor damage. It is best to hire a professional exterminator to rectify Black Carpenter Ant infestations. Black Carpenter Ants are difficult to control. Housing contractors are currently using boron compounds like boric acid to control Black Carpenter Ants. These compounds are available at home improvement centers and are sprinkled in walls as the house is being built. Boric acid can be used to help control Black Carpenter Ants but must not be used in locations where it will be accessible to pets or children. More toxic compounds should be applied only by professional exterminators. In any case, always follow the instructions on a pesticide container.

DO NOT assume that ants in your house are harmless. Black Carpenter Ants come in various sizes and look like any other ant. If you have flying ants in your home in spring, they are likely Carpenter Ants. The presence of small piles of sawdust around doors, windows etc. are also indications of a Carpenter Ant infestation. Don't wait until obvious damage has occurred. Destroy the nest immediately.

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