Do the carpenter ants have wings? Carpenter ants identification

Do the carpenter ants have wings?

What are the carpenter ants? Do they consume woods? How similar are they to termites? Do the carpenter ants have wings? What are their sizes? Would you like to identify them?

Do the carpenter ants have wing

The carpenter ants are ant species found in wet woods and roofs. They need heat, humidity, and shelter like any insect. Basically, they don’t dig galleries to eat the wood but to use them as housing.

How to identify a carpenter ant

First, carpenter ants are common in America, Europe and other parts of the world. As carpenter ants cause damage to the wood areas where they nest, you can confuse their presence with a termite infestation. However, while termites eat wood, carpenter ants only make galleries inside the wood for shelter. All species of carpenter ants prefer rotten wood to make their nests because these areas provide them with adequate humidity and temperature. While carpenter ants do not eat wood, this ant’s damage can be severe when its nests remain active for several years.

How to identify a carpenter ant

Over time, the colony can expand to satellite colonies near the mother colony.  The workers among the carpenter ants, which don’t have wings, dig the wood to increase the space of the colony, causing extensive damage to the structures and woodwork.  In the United States alone, there are 18 species of carpenter ants recognized.

For this reason, identification can be difficult. Their size and color may vary between different species and even between different individuals of the same colony. Carpenter ants are between three and 20 millimeters long and can be black, brown, yellow, orange or red. While they are ranked among the largest species of ants in the world, their size is not a key to identify them. The most common woodpecker ants have the reddish-brown chest, head, abdomen, and black bodies. These ants are easily confused with termites, particularly during bridal flights, when the group of the male and female carpenter ants with wings leave their colony to mate.

The most important features of carpenter ants

The most important characteristic to identify carpenter ants are their angled antennas, a tiny waist, a uniformly convex chest and only one node inside the thorax and abdomen. Carpenter ants develop through a complete metamorphosis: from the egg to the larva, from the larva to the chrysalis, and from the chrysalis to the adult. Adult carpenter ants have six legs, a narrow waist, three different regions on the body and a hair ring at the tip of the abdomen. The color of the eggs, larvae, and pupae can vary depending on the species of the carpenter ant. Meanwhile, to locate the nests of these ants, you can follow the path of worker ants. Look for a clean and smooth cavity in the infested area, or also a small slit in the form of a window on the surface of the damaged wood. You can find small piles of sawdust near open surfaces. After identifying a colony, it is advisable to hire the services of a pest control professional. This is because several satellite colonies may exist within the same house or building.

Appearances of wingless carpenter ants and those with wings

The colony. Usually, there is the one carpenter ant queen with wings for each colony. The male and the female carpenter ants with wings appear when the colony is mature, usually after three or four years. The workers are of varied colors: black, dark brown, red and black, yellow and red, with sizes between six to 13 millimeters. The body of the black carpenter ant is totally black or dark brown, while the other carpenter ants have a black or dark brown body and a reddish-brown chest. The black carpenter ants found in the west and east of the United States are the most studied. This ant is large and black, while carpenter ants found in Florida are small and may vary in color, between black and brown, yellow or red.

However, there are many species of carpenter ants in the United States and, therefore, neither their size nor their color are reliable ways to identify them. Camponotus, a carpenter ant also known as the wood ant, is distinguished from other species by its round-shaped chest and thin waist. All carpenter ants have bent antennas. However, the queen of the carpenter ants and the males in the reproduction stage have frontal wings that are larger than their rear wings. Those wings are transparent or light brown. Carpenter ants with wings appear between February and August. Once the queen is fertilized, she makes a nest to start another colony.

The eggs of these ants are 1/8 inch long, are oval in shape and cream in color. The larvae do not have legs. Meanwhile, during their chrysalis stage, they become adults.

Which of the carpenter ants have wings

While the queen and the workers have no wings, the swarmers among the carpenter ants have wings. So, one of the first signs of carpenter ants infestation around your home or property is the sighting of flying ants. The swarmer type of carpenter ants, however, have two sets of wings. You can find these wings in the thorax region before their waists.

Why do some carpenter ants have wings and others don’t?

A colony of adult carpenter ants produces reproductive individuals during spring. Called swarmers, these reproductive colonies of carpenter ants usually have wings just as winged termites. The reason why they have wings, especially the females, is to be able to fly and go to another location, lay their eggs there, hence, establishing another colony.

Are the carpenter ants with wings dangerous?

While, generally, carpenter ants have the habits of chewing through woods, thereby, creating damages on properties, carpenter ants with wings are not typically dangerous. They don’t usually bite, neither are they poisonous. However, as in any case of insect infestation on your property, they can be very annoying.

How to identify carpenter ants with wings?

We already said carpenter ants have typical dark-colored bodies. Also, they have narrow waists, elbowed antennae. However, with the winger carpenter ants, unlike termites’, their hind wings are smaller than their front wings.

Where can you find carpenter ants?

Carpenter ants live outside or inside damp, rotten or hollow wood. They make “galleries” inside the wood particles to be able to move through tunnels from one section of the nest to another. They leave “sawdust” when digging, which is usually the necessary clue to locate their nests.

What do they eat?

Carpenter ants feed on a wide variety of substances.  Some elements that they use for their nutrition are dead insects, sweet substances that are released from some plants and flowers, fruits (citrus fruits produce greater attraction), meats and fats, sweets and juices, etc. Meanwhile, the favorite food of these adult ants is the nectar they get from other insects.  However, a particular case that occurs in the feeding of carpenter ants is symbiosis.  This process is a type of relationship in which two species benefit from each other. Typically, the carpenter ant drags its nest into the caterpillar of certain butterflies and feeds on its juices. In the same way, the caterpillars benefit by obtaining their food from the young of the carpenter ants.

The queen lays 15 to 20 eggs in the first year and up to 30 the second year. Eggs complete their life cycle in 60 days. While worker ants can live up to seven years, queens can live up to 25 years in favorable conditions.

What’s the size of a carpenter ant?

Carpenter ants are one of the largest of all species of ants. They are polymorphic, which means that ants of different sizes can exist within the same colony. Adult carpenter ants can measure between six and 12 millimeters long. The group of male carpenter ants with wings can, however, reach more than 18 millimeters. Meanwhile, the queen can grow up to 20 millimeters or an inch long. A mature colony can contain 3,000 or 4,000 adult ants. Like other species of ants, carpenters are sociable and their colonies compose of different castes. A typical mother colony contains a queen, the pups of the queen and the workers, both castes of greater and smaller size. The size of the workers determines their responsibility.

Meanwhile, the smallest workers are the smallest in the colony. And their responsibility is to take care of young females and look for food. However, the largest workers are the largest and serve as soldiers to defend the colony from predators. In the United States, the Florida carpenter ant and the black ant are the two most common species among carpenter ants. While they may have physical characteristics, nesting habits, feeding, and similar destructive behaviors, their colonies contain different sizes of ants. Two factors affect the difference in size between these species. First is the availability of food. And second is the number of ants looking for food. The Florida carpenter ant has a size that fluctuates between 3/16 of an inch and an inch.

The size of black carpenter ants depends on their caste. The workers can be as small as ¼ inch, while the queen can measure more than ½ inch. However, in all species of carpenter ants, the queen becomes twice the size of the workers.

The life cycle of carpenter ants

First, its life cycle begins with the nuptial flight. During the nuptial flight, drones (male with wings) and princesses (females with wings) appear. So, after the princess is fertilized, she loses her wings and the drone dies. Then the princess looks for a new place to build her colony, usually in a cleft of a wooden structure. She seals the entrance to get trapped in the chamber. Next, she’ll lay eggs, which she does in approximately 15 days. It remains there until the first group of its young becomes an adult.

During this time, the queen uses her stored fat and wing muscles to feed and feed her young. The queen provides food to the young ants through the secretion of the salivary glands until they become workers and are able to go out to look for food for the colony. While the queen only takes care of her first offspring, when they become workers, they will take care of successive offspring.

When several generations of workers mature, they divide the functions and two castes appear. The largest will be the soldiers and their role will be to protect the nest. Meanwhile, the smaller ones will look for food and serve young females. However, when the colony contains more than 2,000 workers, the queen begins to produce drones and princesses, who will also leave her colony and form new anthill. Typically, a colony has a queen and 200 to 450 carpenter ants with wings that mate during spring.

They need three to four years to build a large and stable colony. The carpenter ants need 60 days from egg to adulthood. The egg stage takes approximately 24 days, the larvae 20 days and the chrysalis 21 days.

How the carpenter ants make their nests

Oftentimes, carpenter ants prefer to make their nests in wet wood or in structures damaged by other insects. As a result, you can find most carpenter ants’ nests in rotting woods in places like windows, fireplaces, dishwashers, door frames, etc. Also, you can find them behind walls that contain pipes and in hollow spaces, such as wall slits, electrical wires, and pipelines.

Meanwhile, in environments where these ants can find wet wood, a cozy temperature, and protection against their predators, their colonies thrive. There are two types of carpenter ants nests: the mother colonies and the satellite colonies. First, the mother colonies can contain about 2,000 workers, numerous offspring and a queen that lays eggs. Meanwhile, the satellite colonies can have thousands of workers but without eggs, larvae or queens. These satellite nests can become a problem in houses and buildings.

Carpenter ants can set their nests outside or inside. However, when they nest outside they do it in noble wood (parquet) that contains holes or other imperfections. As carpenter ants require a consistent temperature and humidity, they always seek to nest in wet and rotten wood. When carpenter ants nest in different areas, they look for an alternative site that offers them a constant temperature, safety against their predators and protection against environmental conditions.

Damages caused by carpenter ants

We already mentioned that the damages caused by carpenter ants are due to the construction of their nests. They dig to make “galleries” and for the queen to lay her eggs, so that young ants can develop. So, unlike termites and larvae of some beetles, carpenter ants do not feed on wood. However, they only dig inside it to build their nests. Basically, carpenter ants prefer to live in wet wood. They enter homes through heating ducts, by air equipment conditioning, by windows, by telephone wires, in areas where trees connect to structures, storage sites, terraces and firewood stacked outside. These ants may invade when the workers in search of food or water get into the houses through tunnels.

Meanwhile, the damage caused by carpenter ants is not as severe as that caused by termites. However, the nests of these ants can cause a lot of damage over the years. Over time, the number of members of the colony grows and its expansion also increases in the wood, causing major damage. To distinguish an infestation of carpenter ants from one of the termites, it is important to observe the hole made in the wood, that is, the nest. Carpenter ants are clean and their wood galleries shiny. Meanwhile, the termite galleries contain a lot of dirt and mud.

Also, carpenter ants have holes that workers use to dispose of unwanted remains. There is usually a pile of “sawdust” behind each hole, similar to the residue left by a pencil sharpener when you sharpen a pencil. While you cannot see the damage of the wood on the surface, you can identify the carpenter ants’ galleries by small holes left in the wood.

Their infestation

Carpenter ants do not intentionally damage wood structures. However, when they build their nests, they are able to do so. So, this pest can become a serious problem when they are not treated. In some cases, they also make satellite nests. In order to achieve their control, it is necessary to identify them and locate their nests.

The most obvious sign of the existence of this plague is the presence of the workers in the buildings or in the houses. However, you cannot conclude that they have made their nests in such places. These ants travel great distances from their nests in search of food. Carpenter ants, meanwhile, rarely nest in dry wood. They prefer to nest in wood used in the infrastructure of buildings or houses, behind walls, hollow doors, window posts, and insulating panels. First, carpenter ants typically look for woods worn away by moisture, decay or other insects. When the infestation of these ants is severe, then you find piles of sawdust behind wooden things. Carpenter ants rummage through the wood to make their nests and so they can also be easily identified by soft cracks inside the wood structures. However, when adult winged ants emerge from the roof, walls or other hidden cracks of a building or house, the existence of the infestation is evidenced.

You can distinguish these pests from termites by the way they build their nests in wood. Carpenter ants’ nests have soft walls and lack accumulation of dirt or mud, as this ant cleans galleries. Another common feature of the existence of carpenter ants is sawdust, the presence of debris, dead insects or other debris outside the nest opening. Sawdust piles are usually located around window ledges or cobwebs.


We already said there are more than a dozen species of carpenter ants. These ants inhabit the wooden structure by digging galleries to ensure shelter and protection of their larvae. The galleries have slits similar to small windows that serve as entry and exit points, as well as to throw trash and dead ants inside the anthill.

Carpenter ants live in and around forest areas and prefer dead or rotten wood, such as firewood, trees or logs. Although this type of ant plays an important role in ecology, they are problematic because they damage the wooden structure of houses. Oftentimes, carpenter ants may enter the house in search of water or food. They cause damage to the wood of houses and buildings when they build their nests in them. If you suspect the existence of an infestation of this ant inside your home or building, it is better to call a pest control professional. These ants bite to defend its nest when they come under invasion.

Are carpenter ants’ bites poisonous?

Its sting does not poison or transmit diseases. But it causes itchy formic acid inside the skin. So it turns out to be very painful. The ants use this characteristic to defend themselves against other insects or ant species when they face any threat.

The bite of this ant feels like a pinch and does not need any treatment unless it causes skin irritation. If that happens, just wash the affected part with soap and water. Then apply an antibiotic ointment and cover the wound with a bandage. Suspecting the existence of an infestation of this ant inside your house or building, it is better to call a pest control professional since these ants bite to defend your nest when it is disturbed.

How to chemically control carpenter ants

Carpenter ants are different species of carpenter ants. But the ones that really constitute a nuisance to buildings and houses are red and black ants.

It is difficult to locate ants in this class, however, you can acknowledge their presence by finding carpenter ants with wings and sawdust near or around wooded areas. When a large colony of carpenter ants nests inside houses or buildings, they are often found behind walls, in pipes or in electric wires. So you can look for their nests here. Also, you can perceive their activity by hearing slight cracks from behind the walls. However, unless the damage is severe, there is no need to disassemble the structure to eliminate the colony of these ants.

Natural pesticides are used to attract, trap and kill ants. They are effective in a few weeks and it is better to use them at night when the workers are actively looking for food. These pesticides come in the form of bait. And they contain a sweet substance that attracts ants. Just place them on the path(s) the ants take from their nest to their food source. So, the workers will take the poison to the colony to distribute it among the queen, the larvae and the other workers. Hence, they will all die in a few days. But if the ants have built satellite nests in separate places, the effectiveness of the chemicals will take a little longer since the workers will have to take the poison to the entire colony to be effective.

Among the many pesticides available in the market, boric acid is one of the most effective for the control of carpenter ants and other species. If the damage is severe, it is best to consult a professional. The professional can mix chemical and non-chemical poisons to kill the queen, workers, larvae, and eggs throughout the colony and thus eliminate the entire colony.

Read more: Does bleach kill roaches

Non-chemical control

Inspect nearby structures and yards to see if there are nests. So once the problem areas have been identified, you should ventilate or drain areas with high humidity levels. Then replace woods damaged by carpenter ants, other insects, or organisms that cause rot. In addition, keep firewood away from home and separate from the ground. Fill and repair cracks and crevices in structures. Also, repair bored pipes and remove trash from water channels to prevent rainwater from accumulating. Finally, repair and clean the chimney.

How to eliminate a carpenter ant nest from your home

Many pest control professionals see carpenter ants be the most difficult type of ants to eliminate. In 35% of the cases, they occupy walls and external voids, which makes finding the nests a challenge. Typically, they begin with a large anthill called the “parental colony”. These spread and divide into “satellite colonies” that may scatter throughout the house, typically in warm, covered areas. Before exterminating a nest, be sure to locate any other satellite anthills in the area. Infested sites will have delicately scattered sawdust around them and evidence of ant trails along the edges of cabinets and furniture.

Steps to eliminate a carpenter ant

Step 1

First, you have to locate the parental colony and satellites. The parent will probably be in a damp area outside the house. Meanwhile, the satellites are usually indoors. Look for sawdust, ant trail and cleaning workers nearby.

Step 2

Next, put on long-sleeved goggles, masks, gloves, and protective clothing before applying insecticide. Finding ant colonies can be hard and dirty work, so wear appropriate clothing.

Step 3

Then apply insecticide directly to satellite colonies. Registered insecticides include boric acid powder, cyfluthrin and 0.5% propoxur. For anthills that are inside the walls, remove the front electrical plates and apply the insecticide through the wall void. Always make sure that the power is off when performing this step. The insecticide will stick to the ants’ body and they will carry it to the anthill, killing the larvae.

Step 4

Spray on outside perimeter line against the foundation of the house, under the house siding, around the doors and windows to eradicate the parental colony. You should do this between May and June, which is the ant breeding season. Registered external perimeter sprays include cyfluthrin, bifenthrin, and deltamethrin. Depending on the type of insecticide used, the frequency of application varies. You may need some sprays several times during the breeding season.


  • The extermination of carpenter ants is best done by a professional.
  • Turn off the electricity before applying insecticide around the front plates.

How do I get rid of carpenter ants with wings and without wings

Don’t forget to contact your county Extension office for information on current and most effective pesticide controls.

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