Belonging to the genus Camponotus, these ants have obtained their name because they make their colonies in wood. In nature, they build their nests in trees as well as in rotting stumps of wood and logs. They also make their nests in wooden structures inside homes, as well as in outside places such as telephone poles.
Usually, ant nests inside homes are found in windowsills, the roofing material, porch pillars, and any wood that is in contact with the earth.
The wood that is excavated by the ants while they make their nest is not eaten by them, but is instead deposited in small piles outside the entrance of their colony. This wood is used only for their nesting requirements. They keep their nesting sites clean and smooth, and do not line them with moist soil like termites do.
There are several other species of ants that are sometimes mistaken for these. One of the best ways of distinguishing this species of ants from the others is by the following physical features--the upper surface of the thorax is evenly rounded and the waist has only a single petiole or node. Also, the other species of ants do not infest wood.
The nesting colonies that carpenter ants make are usually long-lasting. A single queen that is fertilized establishes each colony by setting up a nesting site in a hollowed out space in the wood. The queen then produces a brood of workers, using her salivary secretions to feed them. During this period, the queen does not feed herself nor leave the nest.
Once the workers grow, they have the job of collecting food in order to feed the other larvae that are younger. The population of the colony thus continues to increase rapidly, with the supply of food becoming more regular. It is only when a colony has 2,000 workers or more, that it reaches maturity.
It then has the capacity to produce young males and queens, which can take about 3-6 years or even more. After a colony reaches this stage, it continues producing winged males and queens, which fly away from their nesting sites in order to mate and form new colonies, which usually occurs from May to July.
Although these ants do not usually structurally damage buildings, it leads to considerable damage to wooden structures over a period of time as they hollow out the wood for their nesting sites, and this hollowing is long-lasting. According to recent evidence, it has been observed that they cause a significant amount of damage to foam insulation as well.
How to Control Infestation
One of the main methods of controlling an ant infestation is locating and destroying their nesting sites. According to recent studies, carpenter ants use distinguishable trails of scent to travel between the parent nest and satellite colonies. They also depend on these scent trails to provide guidance to their nest-mates about food locations.
Homeowners can keep track of this trailing characteristic to find and get rid of their nests by using an insecticide spray meant for this purpose.