Ants are easily the most commonly encountered insects within and around homes in urban and suburban areas throughout the US. Somewhere between 80 and 100 ant species have been documented as inhabiting New York state, and a sizable minority of these species are well known pests of homes and buildings. The most commonly controlled ant pests in New York state include pavement ants, odorous house ants, yellow ants, and carpenter ants. Most ant pests in the northeast are capable of establishing multiple nests within hidden spaces inside of structures, such as wall voids, ceiling voids, tight attic spaces, and crawl spaces. Carpenter ants are the only ant pests in New York that frequently excavate nesting tunnels within structural wood located in wall voids, floor voids, and attics. Carpenter ants are considered the most common and economically costly indoor ant pests in New York, and a total of eight carpenter ant pest species can be found in the state, though not all nest within finished wood.
The black carpenter ant (Camponotus pennsylvanicus) is the most destructive and commonly controlled ant pest in the northeast, and it’s widely considered to be the only carpenter ant pest of economic concern in the region. However, this is not necessarily the case, as the second most common carpenter ant pest in New York, the red carpenter ant (C. chromaiodes), also occasionally nests within moist structural wood in residential and commercial structures throughout the state. The six additional carpenter ant pest species in New York rarely damage woodwork; instead, workers of these six species frequently enter homes solely to seek out food sources, making them nothing more than an indoor nuisance in most circumstances.
Like most carpenter ant species, workers from red carpenter ant colonies are noticeably large in size, as they range from ¼ to slightly more than ½ inch in length, and their reddish-black exterior distinguishes them from the uniformly black workers from black carpenter ant colonies. Red carpenter ants usually nest in soil beneath rotting wood, as well as in rotting wood located within moist soil. Occasionally, workers of this species nest within decayed above ground wood sources like stumps, dead parts of trees, and within the woodwork of homes. However, most red carpenter ant infestations do not see workers nest within structural wood, but it is not uncommon for red carpenter ant workers to establish nests within wall voids and attic spaces. When red carpenter ants do establish structural infestations, they are only found in heavily decayed and faulty structural wood members. Researchers have noted that red carpenter ants will readily infest sound redwood lumber.
Have you ever found carpenter ant workers within your home?