Workers are usually ¼ inch to ½ inch while queens can grow as large as ¾ inch.
Carpenter ants range in color from tan to black. They can also be reddish or orange in color or have a combination of black and red.
Carpenter ant colonies, which can have up to 100,000 workers, are usually found within buried or partially buried moist wood such as dead trees, rotting logs and stumps. They also construct nests in houses, telephone poles, and other wooden structures and are commonly found in porch pillars and roofs, windowsills, and other wood in contact with soil. Carpenter ants establish a parent colony and then branch off satellite colonies that may be in a structure. They workers maintain contact between the colonies as they travel to and from each colony over well-defined trails.
Carpenter ants dine on a wide variety of foods. Although their natural food sources are other insects, plant juices and the honeydew produced by aphids and other insects, they will readily forage for water and food scraps inside a house.
Generally there is a single fertilized queen in each carpenter ant colony and she creates a nesting site in a cavity in wood. This is where she raises her first batch of workers, which dine on her salivary secretions. The first workers begin to gather food to feed the younger larvae. As more and more workers mature and begin gathering food, the colony grows rapidly. A colony must contain about 2,000 workers in order to produce young queens and males and can take up to six years to reach this stage. Each spring, mature colonies produce winged reproductive ants, called swarmers, which fly out to start new colonies. These swarms often occur from satellite colonies within homes, so homeowners may see large swarms of flying ants inside their homes at night.
Carpenter ants do not actually eat the wood they remove during nest-building activities. Instead, they deposit it in piles just outside the entrances to the colony. The wood is used solely as a nesting site.
When eliminating Carpenter ants from a home, it is important that all trees and bushes be trimmed so they are not touching the house.