1. Modoc : all black. (Legs may have a rusty red
color) One queen in parent nest.
2. Vicinus : black head, rusty red thorax (mid
section) and black abdomen
(tail section.) Multiple queens in
Most carpenter ant species have other similar characteristics. See
Five Sizes : Carpenter ants can be as small as
one quarter inch or as large as three quarters of an inch.
All sizes can be found in one nest. (See illustration above)
Most Carpenter Ant species establish their initial nest
in decayed wood, but, once established, the ants extend their tunneling into sound wood and can do considerable
damage to a structure.
These species commonly nest in standing trees (living or dead), in
stumps, or in logs on the forest floor. Since many houses are being built in forested areas, well
established, vigorous colonies are readily available in the immediate vicinity to attack these
dwellings. This is especially true when the homeowner insists that the home be built with a minimal removal
Carpenter Ants typically have a parent colony in outside
nesting areas, such as live or dead trees, stumps, logs or decorative
landscape wood. When the colony grows larger and needs room to expand satellite
colonies are established. These satellite colonies often develop in
nearby structures presumably because they offer warm protection.
Only the parent colony contains the queen(s), young
larvae and workers, while the satellite contains the mature larvae,
pupae, workers, and/or winged reproductives. Ants move back and
forth from parent nest to satellite nest but just a few ( less than 10 % ) will be visible foraging for food.
Sometimes they can be seen moving mature larvae
(white and grub-like) or pupae (papery cocoons).
Ants are generally active along ant trails from April
to mid-October. These trails follow natural contours and lines of least
resistance and also frequently cut across lawns. Traffic on these trails
may be noticeable during the day, but peak traffic occurs after sunset
and continues throughout the night.
The parent colony is often located in a tree,
stump, stacked wood within 100 meters of the house or wood and stumps
buried in the yard when the house was constructed. Decorative wood landscape ties brought in to enhance the beauty of a
yard or driveway may also be the source of a parent colony. The colony
does not produce reproductives (winged males and queens) until it is
from 3 to 6 years old and contains about 2,000 workers. The natural food
for these ants consists of insects and other arthropods and sweet
exudates from aphids and insects. They are also attracted to other sweet
material such as decaying fruits.
Reproductive carpenter ants ( winged males and
females ) leave the nest as early as January if the nest is in a
heated structure. Those living outside in logs and stumps will not swarm until
about early May. The fertilized queens must then find wet wood to establish a
new nest, and the cycle starts over again. See
The new queen could live 15 years or more and lay
70,000 fertilized eggs.