Black carpenter ant

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Black carpenter ant
Carpenter ant drone wiki.jpg
Camponotus pennsylvanicus (winged male)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Genus: Camponotus
Species: C. pennsylvanicus
Binomial name
Camponotus pennsylvanicus
(De Geer, 1773)
Live Camponotus pennsylvanicus worker

The black carpenter ant (Camponotus pennsylvanicus) is a species of carpenter ant. It is the most common carpenter ant pest in the United States.

Appearance[edit]

C. pennsylvanicus can be distinguished from other carpenter ant species by the dull black color of the head and body, and by whitish or yellowish hairs on the abdomen. All castes of this species (including the major and minor workers, queens, and males) are black or blackish. Colonies' workers are not all the same size (polymorphism). The antennae are elbowed, usually with six to 13 segments. Workers range from 1-2 cm long.

Behavior[edit]

Black carpenter ants are known to forage up to 100 yards in search of food. Workers are most active at night, traveling from their nest to a food source following trails. They do establish chemical (pheromone) trails. The ants produce crackling sounds that can often be heard near a large nest. A large colony can have thousands of individuals. The black carpenter ant does not sting, but the larger workers can administer a sharp bite, which can become further irritated by the injection of formic acid, which they produce. Black carpenter ants are fiercely territorial with regard to other ants.

Black carpenter ants do not eat or digest wood, but they tunnel through wood, which can cause structural damage.

Diet[edit]

Black carpenter ants are omnivorous. They can eat a great variety of both animal and plant foods, including plant juices, fruits, living or dead insects, other small invertebrates, common sweets such as syrup, honey, jelly, sugar, salt, and fruit, and most kinds of meat, grease, and fat. Unlike termites, they cannot digest wood cellulose.

Control measures[edit]

In their natural environment, carpenter ants nest in dead trees and other dead wood. This enhances decay, which has ecological benefits. However, the ant achieves pest status when a colony invades the wood of a house or other structure, damaging its structural integrity.[1]

Since they favor moist wood as a habitat, any condition that promotes moisture should be eliminated to prevent infestation. The easiest of these is keeping gutters clear so water does not run down the side of the structure or gain entry. Moist wood is much easier to chew. The ants do not eat the wood, but remove it to create galleries for their activities. The galleries run parallel to the grain, as they are created in the softer, nonlignin portions of the timber. The galleries have a sandpaper-like feel, due to fecal remnants, but the mud tubes produced by termites will not be present. Sawdust-like piles of frass sometimes accumulate below sites of activity.

Any wood in contact with the ground can be a source of entry, and water draining toward the structure will also encourage these ants. Sloping the surrounding ground away from the structure will remedy this method of entry. Leaks inside the house from plumbing or appliances can also create the moist conditions that encourage these species.

Reducing moisture will not eliminate an established colony. One can spray the insects with common household insecticides to kill them, but this is unlikely to penetrate enough to reliably kill the colonies deep in the wood. Since the wood housing the main nest likely is no longer structurally sound, the complete removal of the nest and structural repair are required.

The main nest may be located by tracing the foraging workers as they return home. Winged males leave the nest to reproduce, so following them is pointless. The males leave in search of sunlight, so they are often seen near doors and windows (as exit points). If winged ants are seen, a colony is nearby, so this is an important warning sign. Structural damage can be extensive by the time external damage is visible, such as sawdust or bubbling paint.

Various pesticide measures are now used, including diatomaceous earth, granular chemicals, biologicals, and soil poisoning. The last alternative is the least environmentally sound, since it requires widespread distribution of large amounts of poison. The granular chemicals exploit the insects' fondness for sweets, by offering slow-acting insecticides in food substances. The granules are carried back to the nest, where the weak poisons will be slowly fed to the queen until she expires.[citation needed]

References[edit]

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