Red Carpenter Ant

New York Carpenter Ant

Camponotus Novaeboracensis

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Red carpenter ants are fascinating insects found in North America. They are known for their size, measuring between 6 to 15 millimeters long. These ants make their homes in forests and love living in decaying wood, like old tree stumps or logs. They don’t actually eat the wood like termites. Instead, they dig tunnels and rooms inside it to create their nests. Red carpenter ants are really strong and can move a lot of wood as they build their homes. They have an important job in nature because they help break down the old wood and return nutrients back to the soil. So, even though their size may make them look a little scary, red carpenter ants are actually helpful little creatures in the big world of insects!

Red Carpenter Ant

Common Name
Red Carpenter Ant

Other Names

New York Carpenter Ant

Latin Name

Camponotus Novaeboracensis


United States, Canada. Can be found in wooded areas, near houses or other wooden structures.


Red carpenter ants are relatively large ants, with a dark reddish-brown thorax with a black head and abdomen.


Workers range from about 6 to 10 millimeters in length. Queens are approximately 15mm long.


These ants are commonly found in forests and wooded areas, where they nest in decaying wood, tree stumps, or logs. The can also be found in structures like homes or buildings.


Red carpenter ants excavate galleries within wood to create their nests. They do not actually eat the wood like termites do; instead, they remove it to create tunnels and chambers for their colony. Over time, they can cause structural damage to wooden structures.


Red carpenter ants are omnivorous. They primarily feed on sweet substances like nectar, honeydew produced by aphids, and other insects. They can also scavenge for food and are known to forage for protein-rich sources such as dead insects or other small arthropods.


Carpenter ants use chemical signals called pheromones to communicate with each other. They leave scent trails to guide other ants to food sources or to mark paths to and from the nest.

Defense Mechanisms

When threatened, red carpenter ants can defend themselves by biting and using their strong mandibles. They can also emit formic acid as a defensive chemical.

Ecological Importance

Red carpenter ants play a role in the ecosystem by aiding in the decomposition of decaying wood. They break down the wood, helping to return nutrients back into the soil.

Colony Structure

Like most ant species, red carpenter ants live in colonies. Each colony is made up of different castes, including workers, majors, queens, and sometimes winged reproductive ants. The workers are responsible for tasks such as foraging, nest maintenance, and caring for the young.

Photo Credit: The amazing image used for the main picture in this post was taken by Kamil Stajniak from Poland.  He has generously given us permission to use his photographs on our site.  You can check out his other photographs on his website.

The Remarkable World of the Red Carpenter Ant: A Tiny Engineer of Nature

Hey young explorers! Today, we’re diving into the tiny but mighty world of the Red Carpenter Ant. These little creatures are more than just picnic crashers; they’re skilled builders and vital players in their ecosystems. Let’s embark on an exciting journey to uncover the secrets of these fascinating ants!

What is a Red Carpenter Ant?

The Red Carpenter Ant, scientifically known as Camponotus spp., is a common type of ant found in many parts of the world. They are known for their reddish-brown color and large size, with workers varying from 6 to 12 mm in length. But don’t let their size fool you; these ants are super strong and can lift objects many times their own weight!

A Carpenter’s Life

Carpenter ants get their name from their nesting habits. They carve out tunnels and galleries in wood to build their homes, which can be found in dead trees, stumps, and even in the wooden structures of houses. Unlike termites, they don’t eat the wood; they just remove it to make space.

The Colony: A Busy Community

A Red Carpenter Ant colony is like a bustling city. There’s the queen, the only ant that lays eggs. Worker ants, who are all female, do various jobs like gathering food, caring for the young, and expanding the nest. Then there are the males, whose primary role is to mate with the queen.

Diet: What’s for Dinner?

These ants are not picky eaters. They love a varied diet including insects, sweets, meats, and fats. They’re particularly fond of the sweet honeydew produced by aphids, making them indirect protectors of these tiny insects.

The Ants’ Importance in the Ecosystem

Red Carpenter Ants play several crucial roles in their ecosystems. They help in the decomposition of dead wood, thus contributing to nutrient cycling. They also disperse plant seeds and are important prey for many birds, mammals, and other insects.

Friends and Foes in Nature

In the wild, these ants form mutualistic relationships with aphids, protecting them from predators in exchange for honeydew. However, they face threats from natural enemies like birds, spiders, and larger insects. Even certain types of fungi can be deadly to them.

Reproduction: The Circle of Life

In spring, mature colonies produce winged male and female ants. These ants leave their nests to mate during a flight, after which the males die. The fertilized females become new queens and start their own colonies.

Survival Tactics

To survive, Red Carpenter Ants have developed some cool adaptations. They communicate using pheromones, which are chemical signals, and use their strong jaws for defense and for carrying large objects.

Challenges and Conservation

While not currently endangered, Red Carpenter Ants face challenges like habitat loss and pesticides. They’re also threatened by invasive species like the Argentine ant, which competes for resources.

Red Carpenter Ants are incredible creatures with complex societies, important ecological roles, and fascinating behaviors. As tiny as they are, they remind us of the importance of every species in maintaining the balance of nature.

Remember, every creature, no matter how small, has a big story to tell. So, the next time you spot a Red Carpenter Ant, think about the amazing world it represents and its crucial role in our environment!

Let's Go Avocado Team

There’s a lot to explore right where we are, in our own neighborhoods and backyards! Join us while we get off the couch and explore the everyday wonders of nature, science, space, engineering, art, and anything else we stumble upon during on our adventures.

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