There are generally two types of carpenter ants in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa. The most commonly recognized is a large black ant. These may be as large as ½” to ¾” in length. Another common carpenter ant is the Fungal Carpenter Ant that is usually smaller and each ant is both black and red. Please note that not all black ants or red and black ants are carpenter ants.
Carpenter ants do not eat wood. Instead, they hollow out areas of wood and other material for nest locations. One possible sign of a carpenter ant infestation, other than the ants themselves, is saw dust. The sawdust is usually discolored due to high moisture content. The sawdust may also contain dead or parts of dead carpenter ants and other debris. This is called frass.
Sometimes the area being excavated is not wood at all. They may also live inside foam board, drywall, insulation and other building materials.
Carpenter ants are a social insect. They live in colonies, each with a queen as it’s head.
They may be eating the same things that you and I eat. Many times carpenter ants are seen in and around dishwashers, garbage disposals and other areas that contain human food. They will also feed on other insects.
In nature, one very common food source is honeydew. Honeydew is produced by tiny aphids or mites. The aphids feed on the sap from trees and other plants. They do not utilize all of the sap that they consume and thus they excrete the honeydew. This is a substance that is mostly sugars. Carpenter ants will actually protect aphids from predators.
In the environment, carpenter ants help to break down dead wood and return it to the soil. Definitely very beneficial!
Carpenter ants living outdoors may enter our homes looking for food. No one likes to see them crawling across the kitchen counter. Definitely a nuisance!
Carpenter ants may be living in our homes and other structures. Primarily, they like to hollow out wood that has a high moisture content. When they do this to structural items, they are definitely destructive!
A carpenter ant nest in a building is usually a sign that there is a moisture problem within.
When possible or reasonable, it is best to try to find the location of the nest. Once found, the nest can be treated directly with an insecticide. This eliminates the queen and most of the workers in a short time. Further treatment should entail treating around the exterior perimeter of the structure.
It is then recommended that the moisture problem, that is associated with the nesting site, be corrected. Otherwise a new colony may start at the same place at a later date. Rotting and decay of the area may also ensue.