Carpenter Ants

Carpenter Ants

They build nests inside wood consisting of galleries chewed out with their mandibles, preferably in dead, damp wood. However, unlike termites, they do not consume wood, discarding a material that resembles sawdust. 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. Nevertheless, their ability to excavate wood helps in forest decomposition. One of the most familiar species associated with human habitation in the United States is the black carpenter ant (Camponotus pennsylvanicus). The genus includes over 1,000 species. They also farm aphids. In the farming, the ants protect the aphids while they excrete a sugary fluid called honeydew, which the ants get by stroking the aphids with their antennae.


Carpenter ants are considered both predators and scavengers. These ants are foragers that typically eat parts of other dead insects or substances derived from other insects. Common foods for them include insect parts, “honeydew” produced by aphids, or extrafloral nectar from plants. They are also known for eating other sugary liquids such as honey, syrup, or juices. Carpenter ants can increase the survivability of aphids when they tend them. They tend many aphid species but can also express preference for specific ones.


All ants in this genus, and some related genera, possess an obligate bacterial endosymbiont called Blochmannia. This bacterium has a small genome, and retains genes to biosynthesize essential amino acids and other nutrients. This suggests the bacterium plays a role in ant nutrition. Many Camponotus species are also infected with Wolbachia, another endosymbiont that is widespread across insect groups.


Carpenter ants work to build the nests that house eggs in environments with usually high 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 hatched larvae, workers, and the queen reside in the primary nests. As satellite nests do not have environmentally sensitive eggs, the ants can construct them in rather diverse locations that can actually be relatively dry.[13] Some species, like Camponotus vagus, builds the nest in a dry place, usually in wood.