Carpenter ants are the most common ant pests within homes in the northeast. These ants can be costly pests due to their habit of hollowing out nesting cavities within the lumber components of houses. While most carpenter ant pest species in the northeast have been documented as nesting within structural wood, the only species that is recognized as a significant structural pest in the region is the black carpenter ant. The remaining carpenter ant pest species generally invade homes to seek out sweet-tasting food sources, and most are capable of establishing indoor nests within wall voids and other inaccessible indoor areas. In fact, even most black carpenter ant infestations do not see the ants infest wood; instead, they tend to forage into homes from either outdoor or indoor nests, and they frequently infest pantries in large numbers.

In total, there are eight documented carpenter ant species that are known for being pests within northeastern homes, but only five species are considered frequent home invaders in the region. Three of these five species are commonly referred to as black, red and smaller carpenter ants, but the remaining two have not been given a common name. These remaining carpenter ant species are known as C. herculeanus and C. noveboracensis. Since worker ants are tasked with gathering food away from the nest, residents only ever see worker carpenter ants within homes. With the exception of the aptly named smaller carpenter ant, carpenter ants are the largest ant species in the US. Most carpenter ant pest species are between ¼ and ⅝ of an inch in length, while the smaller carpenter ant is only ⅛ to ⅕ of an inch in length, and this species can be recognized by its reddish-brown color.

Smaller carpenter ants do not typically infest wood, but they often establish a presence within hollow pipes, behind siding and within any cavity where moisture is abundant. The black carpenter is dark brown to black, and their whitish yellow hairs can distinguish them from other species. C. noveboracensis closely resembles the black carpenter ant, only they have a burgundy colored midsection. This species is commonly found in homes near wooded areas, and they are generally nuisance pests as opposed to economically damaging structural pests. The red carpenter ant is the second most common carpenter ant species in the northeast, and they are largely a nuisance, but they may infest heavily decayed wood that makes contact with the ground soil. Despite their common name, red carpenter ant workers are dark colored with black heads. C. herculeanus is rarely a structural pest, but the species is a common nuisance pest within homes, and it can be recognized for its dark brown to black color and light to medium brown midsection.

Have you ever experienced an infestation of any carpenter ant species other than the black carpenter ant?