There are over a thousand different species of carpenter ant.
The carpenter ant is one of the largest of all the types of ant, ranging between a sixteenth of an inch to half an inch in length. Queen carpenter ants have been known to grow to a massive one inch in size.
They get their name from the fact that they make their nests in wood, cutting, grooving, tunnelling and sanding to make a series of long tunnels, or galleries, in which they live. They are skilled carpenters and their wooden homes are perfectly smooth and rounded, sanded to perfection, and they leave no mess, no splinters, sawdust, chippings or other debris cluttering up the place.
It is because of their wood tunnelling activities that they are often mistaken for termites. They are however, very different in appearance to termites, they are black and red in color in contrast to most termites’ dull sandy brown. They also have a quite different body shape.
The most significant difference is that termites will destroy perfectly beautiful wooden furniture, whereas the carpenter ant is not at all interested in healthy, dry wood and will only nest in damp rotting wood. This could be a fun ant for an ant farm.
The ants do not actually eat the wood. They need quite a high protein diet and have an extremely sweet tooth, so they live on the bodies of insects, both live ones which they catch and kill themselves, and dead ones which they may happen upon whilst out foraging, and the sweet, sticky honey dew which is produced by aphids (greenflies for example).
They can often be found living in houses, where that they will eat any meat that they find, as well as sweet foods such as syrup and honey. They can quickly overrun the house and cause a lot of damage as well as deliver a nasty, painful bite during which they inject acid into the skin.