Carpenter ants get their name from their habit of hollowing out galleries in pieces of wood for nesting purposes. This nesting habit can easily result in structural damage. These ants are black with combinations of red and black or completely red or brown. They can be found throughout the United States, including South Carolina. Although they do not sting, their bites can be quite painful, especially when they inject formic acid into the wound.
External infestations can be identified by the appearance of small openings or windows on the surface of wood. Through these openings, the workers expel debris which consists of sawdust-like shavings and/or fragments of insulation and insect body parts. Inside, the galleries follow the softer spring wood with numerous connections through the harder/dark summer wood. Carpenter ants prefer to attack wood softened by fungus and are often associated with moisture problems.
Carpenter ant colonies are moderate in size, containing over 3,000 workers at full maturity. Most carpenter ant species establish their first nest in decayed wood and later expand or enlarge this into sound wood. Inside, nests are located in wood, in insulation, and/or in wall voids. Workers become a nuisance when out searching for food but are destructive to timbers utilized for nesting activities. Outside, nests are typically located in rotting fence posts, stumps, old firewood, dead portions of standing trees, and under stones or fallen logs.
Carpenter Ant Feeding Habits
Carpenter ants feed primarily on insect honeydew, plant and fruit juices, insects, and other arthropods. Inside, they will feed on sweets, eggs, meats, cakes, and grease. The workers will forage up to 300 feet from their nest and will enter buildings around door and window frames, eaves, plumbing and utilities lines, and shrub and tree branches in contact with the building.