Ants are incredible creatures and one of the most successful insects on earth. In nature, ants are a primary source of nutrition for many animals. They aerate more soil than the earthworm and take advantage of every conceivable environmental condition and can be found in every area of the world except for the polar ice caps. However, carpenter ants have been known to cause structural damage to homes and businesses. As they prefer moist damp wood, moisture is the key component to look for if you suspect that you have a carpenter ant problem.
Carpenter ants are often mistaken for termite swarmers, particularly during swarms when winged male and female ants fly out of their colony to mate. The most important characteristics to look for when identifying any winged ant are elbowed antennae, a pinched or constricted waist and a front pair of wings that is longer than the back pair. Termite swarmers will have straight antennae, a broad waist and both pair of wings similar in length.
Several species of carpenter ants exist within the United States, so size and color are not always reliable identifying characteristics. Carpenter ants are distinguished from other species by the rounded profile of their thorax, the heart-shaped head and circle of hairs around the anus. (These identifying characteristics are best seen under magnification.)
Queen carpenter ants and reproductive males have forewings that are larger than their hind wings. These wings are transparent or light brown. The winged carpenter ants appear in the spring or fall. After the females are fertilized, they make a nest to start a colony.Carpenter ant workers have black, dark brown, red and black, yellow or red coloration with sizes ranging from 3.4 to 13 mm. Black carpenter ants have uniform dark brown and black colors, while red and black carpenter ants have dark brown and black bodies with a red-brown thorax.