There are over a thousand types of these large, typically black ants, which belong to the genus Camponotus. Carpentes live in colonies and have nests both indoors and outdoors in moist, decaying or hollow wood. They like to travel through this decaying timber by chiselling out galleries or walkways in wood length-ways up the grain in order to create passageways from one section of the colony to another.
The parts of a house that are most likely to be of interest to carpenters are floor joists, window frames and rafters in the roof. In fact, anywhere where you are likely to have a difficulty with water entry. Decks and porches are also clearly at risk.
An interesting fact about these carpenter ants is that some species produce inhabitants that can explode in order to eradicate invaders. These so-called exploding ants are found by and large in South East Asia where there are at least nine species that can cause their bodies to explode, thus committing suicide.
These ants have a massive abdomen which provides a sort of glue which is shot out of the head onto invaders. The exploding ant dies, but all the attackers caught up in this mesh of glue are glued-up as well.How do you know whether you have carpenter ants or not? Well, the best method of distinguishing carpenters from other ants is by looking at their waists. A carpenter has only one node or hump and their thorax or upper body is well-rounded and smooth. Other similar ants have more than one node or an uneven or two-sectioned back.
If you are looking at flying ants, then the difference between carpenter ants and termites, with which they are often mixed up, is that carpenter ants have darker-coloured bodies, narrow waists, elbowed or bent antennae and, if they have them, the rear wings are smaller than the front wings.
Another aspect is that carpenters are quite happy to come out and be seen, whereas termites are light-shy, even though carpenter ants are most active between dusk and mid-night and reproductive termites will take to the air during the day time.
Carpenter ants eat protein and sugar such as other insects, living or dead and spilled honey or sugar. This honey can also be extracted from aphids or greenfly, which is called honeydew. Therefore, if you want to trace carpenter worker ants back to their nest or nests, you have to lay down something like honey and watch the ants take the food back to their nests. This is the first step in destroying colonies of carpenter ants.