Carpenter ant workers are about 1/4 – 1/2 inches long, dull black with reddish legs and golden hairs covering the abdomen. Queens are about 5/8+ inches long. Other color combinations of carpenter ants can be of red and black, or completely red or brown. Although carpenter ants do not sting, their bites can be quite painful, especially when they inject formic acid into the wound.
External indication of infestation from carpenter ants is usally indicated when there are is a presence of small openings on the surface of the wood. Here the workers will expel debris which consists of sawdust-like shavings and fragments of insulation and insect body parts. They prefer to a hollow out soften wood that is associated with moisture problems and fungus.
Most carpenter ants establish their first nest in decayed wood and later expand into sound wood. Workers are a nuisance when out searching for food but are destructive to timbers utilized for nesting activities. Outside nests are typically located in rotting fence posts, stumps, old firewood, dead portions of standing trees, and under stones or fallen logs.
Carpenter ant colonies usually contain over 3,000 workers (up to 10-20,000 including satellite nests) when maturity is reached in about 3 to 6 years. Large colonies contain about 100,000 workers. Full metamorphosis from egg to adult takes at least 60 days for the worker ants. Workers are polymorphic, with majors, minors and intermediates present. There is usually only one functional, wingless queen per colony. Swarmers (reproductive ants) are not produced until the colony is more than 2-3 years old. Swarmers appear from February through June.