What is the Difference Between Black Ants and Carpenter Ants?

Black Ants and Carpenter AntsAnts in the home can be a nuisance. They can get into food or linger around water sources such as your sink. And there is never just one or two to contend with. However, some ants go beyond being a nuisance and can harm your home. The carpenter ant, for example, causes structural damage to your home. So how do you tell the difference between a common black ant and a carpenter ant?

The Difference Between the Carpenter Ants and Black Ants

Black Ants and Carpenter AntsIt can be difficult to differentiate black ants from carpenter ants at a glance, but here are a few ways you can identify them. First, Carpenter ants are generally larger than black ants and will usually be around 0.5″ in length. They are more likely to have a dual set of wings, and they have elbows on their antennae. If a carpenter ant is a reproductive threat, their front wings will be longer than their back wings. Secondly, the carpenter ant has a heart shaped head. Another physical difference is their thorax. It is hard to see without a hand lens, but black ants have an uneven thorax, whereas the carpenter ant’s thorax is smoothly rounded.

While recognizing physical differences in these two types of ants helps to identify them, the real difference between the two is how their presence impacts our home. Black ants are a nuisance. They can sting, contaminate food, and be an all-around unwelcome guest in our homes. However, these ants do not typically live inside of homes, nor cause physical damage. They build mounds of dirt in the yard and enter the home primarily for food and water.

Carpenter ants, on the other hand, can structurally damage homes, especially if they nest in large numbers inside the walls of your home. They like to tunnel through and nest in the wood framing. While sometimes they nest in dry, rotted wood, they generally prefer moist wood. Some common places to find them are kitchens and bathrooms where wood may be dampened by water leaks.

Infestation Patterns of Black Ants and Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants are much more likely to be found in rural homes without much light in attic and basement spaces. Indoor nests from carpenter ants tend to be extensions of a nest in a nearby tree. You will know that your home has definitely been infested if your windows have winged carpenter ants by them – this means there is an indoor nest somewhere. Black ants are much less discerning when they invade; most likely, they are just looking for food.

How Can You Protect Your Home Against Carpenter Ants?

To protect against carpenter ants, make sure that any leaks in the roof or plumbing are repaired to prevent moist wood that attracts these ants. Carpenters will not infest wood with a moisture content of less than 15 percent. Also, remove rotting wood from the entryways to your home, trim tree branches away from the roof, and seal any cracks in your home. Do not store firewood in the garage or near the foundation of your home.

If you discover that you do have carpenter ants, ant baits typically won’t be very effective against carpenter ants, as they tend to ignore traditional insect bait. The first step is to find the location of the ants. Next, call a knowledgeable ant control professional who can inspect your home to determine the source of ants and effectively treat them. Contact your local pest control specialist today if you suspect carpenter ants in your home.


Updated on Oct. 18, 2016