Big Black Ants or Carpenter Ants? How to Tell the Difference.

carpenter antThe presence of big black ants sometimes means that your home is invaded by carpenter ants. If this is the case, you don’t want that since they can literally eat through parts of your house if you don’t notice them on time.

People sometimes assume every big black ant is a carpenter ant, which can bring an instant panic; however, not all big black ants are carpenter ants. In order to identify them properly, all you need to know is a little basic biology. Since carpenter ants can cause significant structural damages, you need to know how to recognize them when compared to other species of ants.

Characteristics of Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants can be black, brown, red, or even a combination of these colors. They vary in size based on their role in the colony and genus, but generally they’re larger than any other common household ant.

  • The queen is the largest ant in the colony – they can grow up to 20mm long
  • Winged reproductive females and males can grow up to 18mm long
  • Major and minor adult workers typically measure from 6 to 12mm in length

In addition to length, there are other characteristics specific to carpenter ants:

  • Carpenter ants have a distinctive heart-shaped head with large jaws and elbowed antennae.
  • Carpenter ant workers have a smooth and rounded upper thorax, unlike common garden ants, which have rigged thoraxes.
  • Carpenter ant workers always have a rounded thorax and the one segmented petiole (a part that connects the thorax and abdomen) while other black ants have an unevenly shaped thorax with either one or two-segmented petioles.
  • If wings are present, the hind wings are shorter than the front wings.
  • Carpenter ants don’t have stingers.

What They Eat

Carpenter ants feed on sources of protein and sugar, like living and dead insects, fruit, and plants. When indoors, they feed on meats, sugar, sweets, and even pet food. They don’t actually eat wood, they just remove it to create galleries and tunnels for nesting. Their colonies are usually established in moist wood including tree roots, logs, and rotting trees. Wood inside of homes that is suffering from water damage is also a common place to find them.

How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants

The only way to eliminate carpenter ants is to locate and destroy their nest. This requires a careful observation of worker ants, especially between sunset and midnight. When you notice big black ants, examine them carefully and try to determine the species. If you have confirmed that you’re having a problem with carpenter ants, you should contact a professional since these pests breed really fast and they can destroy your entire house if you don’t stop the infestation.

Proudly serving the greater Chicagoland area in Illinois and southeast Wisconsin, the professional exterminators at Aerex Pest Control understand the habits of ants and use that knowledge when developing an ant control program that is best suited to your home and your particular problem. Our technicians are professional, state certified, licensed applicators. Call today for your free consultation 847-255-8888 or click here for a free quick quote.

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