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Carpenter Ants in Ohio – Information and Facts

Carpenter Ants In Cleveland, Ohio


Camponotus penn-sylvanicus is the most common carpenter ant species in Ohio. These wood destroying insects are amongst the largest species of ants in the world. Keep in mind that worker ants are polymorphic. That means they come in different sizes. Since there is a variety of tasks involved in operating a colony, having different sized workers increases efficiency. Comparably, minor workers are 1/4″ long while major workers are 1/2″ long. All workers are female. While this species of carpenter ant is black, other species are red, brown, or yellow.

Carpenter ants can be identified by:

  • A single node between the abdomen and thorax.
  • An evenly rounded thorax (back).
  • A fringe of hairs around the anus at the tip of the abdomen.

Proper identification is important when doing ant pest control. Other species of ants can resemble carpenter ants. These ants can have single nodes or two nodes between the abdomen and thorax. But these ants do not have an evenly rounded thorax and hairy butts. Always look for the evenly rounded thorax when identifying carpenter ants against other ant species of similar appearance.

Black carpenter ants resemble another large ant that is common in Ohio, black field ants. Black field ants colonize in the ground and make mounds of soil. Carpenter ants do not. Field ants also have a painful bite!

Termites and Carpenter Ants Compared

Anytime from March through July, carpenter ant colonies send off winged reproductive ants to form new colonies. Flying carpenter ants can be mistaken for termite swarmers. Keep in mind that there are many differences between carpenter ant swarmers and termite swarmers. Carpenter ants can be differentiated by having an elbowed antennae, constricted waist, and clear wings. Another key note is that their hind wings are shorter than their front wings. On the other hand termites have straight beaded antennae, a lighter colored broad body, and milky white wings that are equal in length. Also, termite wings fall off very easy from their body. These are the easiest ways to tell the two apart.

Nesting sites

In nature, carpenter ants nest in stumps, stacks of firewood, fallen logs, and in live trees with decay. Queens are hidden deep within the colony. Heat given off by the colony, paired with high levels of humidity within the tree, creates the correct environment for reproduction to take place. Common Ohio trees that carpenter ants nest in are silver maples, birch, oak, ash, cherries, and crab apples.

Carpenter ants do not eat wood like termites do. They excavate wet and decayed wood to make their nests. They rarely nest inside dry wood that is structurally sound. Outside of the nest you can usually find frass. These are wood shavings resulting from the excavation of their nests.

Satellite Colonies

Carpenter ant workers invade buildings looking to expand their range. They burrow into decayed structural components of buildings. These nests are called satellite colonies. Nests in buildings rarely contain a queen. Humidity is not likely high enough in structural lumber to enable a queen to reproduce. Ant eggs need a high level of humidity to prevent them from drying out.

Satellite colonies can be anywhere there is wood with decay present. There may be multiple satellites inside of a structure. Common sites to find carpenter ants on a structure is on porch pillars, decking material, underneath siding, in wood siding, in joists and studs adjacent to past water leaks, in fascia board behind gutters, in attic rafters, beneath subfloor insulation, and around doors and windows. Carpenter ants also nest inside foam insulation and can be found behind bathroom tile.

Carpenter ant colonies that are inside structures may remain active year round. If the nest is located in area that gets too cold during winter, the colony will go dormant until the weather begins to warm. Once the weather warms, New queens and male reproductives (flying ants) swarm from pupae previously transported into these satellite colonies. Swarming also occurs in fall before exterior colonies die. Outdoors, only the new queens overwinter.


During the year, carpenter ants are most active spring through summer. During a day, carpenter ants are most active from dusk until midnight. Workers travel up to 100 yards from their nest in search of food.

Carpenter ants may forage inside homes without having a colony on the interior. When trees and vines touch the home or are in contact with adjoining utility lines; carpenter ants use these as a highway to enter the home. It is important to keep overhanging tree branches out of contact with the home. Also keep vines and trees from contacting the utility lines connected to your home. Indoors, carpenter ants feed on meats and sweets. They feed upon most crumbs and food debris dropped on the ground. The eat pet food, syrup, honey, sugar, jelly and other meats and sweets.

Carpenter ants are attracted to honeydew produced by plant feeding insects (scale and aphids). Ants actually herd aphids like cows and farm their honeydew (feces). Do not keep plants that are susceptible to these insects close to the home. Keep your landscape plants vigorous and install resistant plant varieties. Otherwise you will have to treat for aphids and ants! Plant nectar is also in their diet. Carpenter ants are the primary pollinator of peonies. In return for pollinating, they receive flower nectar. Otherwise, ants feed on insects. They eat both dead and alive insects.

Ants feed primarily on proteins early in the season. This is to help nourish developing larvae. Once the queen stops reproduction later in the season, the ant’s diet changes to primarily starches (sugars). Yellowjackets do the same thing when they start dive bombing pop cans at picnics during mid to late summer. Ants are closely related to wasps, bees and hornets.