The Anatomy of Carpenter Ants, also called Wood Ants. The Very large ants of Genus Campotonus. View ant videos and ant photos.
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Camponotus castaneus (USA)

photos: courtesy of



.Camponotus aeneopilosus (Australia).................. Camponotus ligniperda (Europe)................Camponotus arminius (S. Africa).....



Large Ants of Genus Camponotus


By Carolyn Pararas-Carayannis

Class: Insecta Order: Hymenoptera Family: Formicidae Genus: Camponotus

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For in-depth discussion of Myrmecology: Ant Taxonomy & Classification; Formicidae (ant) Colony Behaviors; Anatomy, Physiology, Life Cycle (complete metamorphosis), Colony Caste System and great, relevant ant videos click here.

Carpenter Ant Anatomy.......Identification Made Easy - Key Points.

Anatomical Differences Between Winged Carpenter Ants & Termites .



Fig.1 Black Carpenter Ant (species C. pennsylvanicus) Photo: Alex Wild/

photo black carpenter antMature adult workers can be red, black or brown - however, variations of these colors are not uncommon. Overall size range is species dependant. Queens of the species are larger and workers of established colonies exhibit polymorphism - size variation among workers.

Note the ant in the photo to the left. It is a classic example of the Black Carpenter Ant (species C. pennsylvanicus) that inhabits the eastern United States. Of ant types, this is perhaps the largest species in Genus Camponotus. Some winged queens have measured as large as 1" (Hahn, Cannon & Ascerno, 2002).

Closer discrimination of the photo reveals: overall, dull black color with lighter, yellow/brown hairs on its gaster, a rounded, smooth convex thorax, narrow waist (petiole) and one, small nodal protrusion, just anterior to its gaster. Antennas exhibit characteristic "elbow" bends, devoid of "bulbs or clubbing" at their ends. All distal legs are dark reddish in color. Note, Carpenter Ants have no posterior "stinger". Although unequipped to sting, Carpenter's will bite if threatened. Using their strong mandibles to grab and hold their prey, they spray formic acid directly into the bite wound from a gland located at the end of their abdomen. Although formic acid from a single ant is not poisonous, many ants attacking together can can overcome and mortally wound small insect prey.


For human's, Carpenter Ant bites are not poisonous unless the individual has a severe allergy to formic acid, which is rare. When bitten, in addition to pain from the bite, it is usual for one to feel short-lived "stinging" or "burning" sensations due to the spray of formic acid from the ant (or ants) directly into the bite wounds. Bite wounds should be washed well with soap and water and then covered with a thin film of antibiotic cream. If stings remain bothersome, which in many cases they do, after washing apply a thick paste of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) over the affected area. This neutralizes the formic acid and relieves the sting and burning sensations.

fig.1a: Carpenter Ant Mandibles photo: courtesy of Orkin Inc./



Large Ants: Carpenter Ants - genus Camponotus, common name: wood ants

Identifications are made using mature adults.

Overall body size of Carpenter Ants is generally not a good indicator for identification because body size varies significantly across and within species. However, the identification of polymorphism, caste size variation, is. This is well demonstrated among the workers of the Black Carpenter ant (species: C. pennsylvanicus), which range in size from 1/4" to 1/2" within the same colony; and the workers of the New York Carpenter ant (species: C. novaboracensi), which range in size from 3/16" to 3/8" within their same colony. These caste size variations are due to major sub classifications within the Carpenter's "worker" cast where minor, intermediate, and major workers all exhibit different body sizes.

Fig.2 Anatominical Characteristics of Carpenter Ants (original figure by Hahn, Cannon & Ascerno, 2002; edited Pararas-Carayannis 2008)

Major anatominical indicators single out Carpenter Ants (wood ants) from other species of large ants. These can be seen clearly in Fig.2 (left) and Fig.1 photo (above).

1. The top of the thorax is evenly rounded, convex and bears no spines.

2. The attachment between the thorax and abdomen (petiole) forms a "waist" with one protruding node.

3. Camponotus species are polymorphic.

4. No ending "bulb" or "club" on their antennae.

5. Antennae: Characteristic "elbow bend" with 12 segments.

6. Hairs are present on gaster. There is no posterior stinger.

7. Sizes in a colony range from 6mm for minor workers, to 18mm for winged reproductives and as large as 20mm for the functional wingless, colony queen. Size varies between species - thus overall body size is not a good identification indicator, but identification of polymorphism within the colony is (see #3 above).

8. Winged Carpenter Ants can resemble winged termites. Find out how to tell the difference, below.


Fig.3 Texas Agricultural Extension Service Diagram 1999

Carpenter ants have dark bodies, narrow waists and elbowed antennae. Front and hind wings are not alike. Hind wings are shorter, often different in shape and exhibit few vein patterns. When wings detach, there are no wing stubs. Carpenters can be seen flying about in the open, during daylight.

Conversely, Termites are light in color, have no waist constriction, antennae are not elbowed, and wing stubs are present when wings detach. Front and rear wings are similar in size, shape and vein patterns. Many small veins are present. Front and rear wings are equal in length. Termites do not like light. They avoid light and prefer not to venture far from their colony.

.Next: Carpenter Ant Behaviors (Nesting, Primary Nests, Satellite Nests, New Primary Nest Formation, Nuptial Flight, Habits & Seasonal Activities; Diet & Foraging; Carpenter Ant Videos - Colony Behaviors / Nesting.)

Carpenter Ant - Wood Ant Introduction

Carpenter Ant Anatomy (General Anatomy, Identification Made Easy, Anatomical Differences Between Winged Carpenter Ants and Termites)

Carpenter Ant Videos (Carpenter Nest; Carpenter Workers Removing Wood, Carpenter Ant Nest - Home Infestation)

Signs of.Indoor Infestation....Eradication ......Prevention & Ant Control.


Ant Types: Large Ants; Common Name: Carpenter Ants - Wood Ants; Genus: Camponotus; 600 Species world-wide

Carpenter Ant Taxonomy

Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Arthropoda, Subphylum: Hexapoda, Class: Insecta, Subclass: Pterygota, Infraclass: Neoptera, Order: Hymenoptera, Suborder: Apocrita, Infraorder: Aculeata, Superfamily: Vespoidea, Family: Formicidae Genus: Camponotus (ITIS, 2006).

Search Terms: Large Ants; Ant Types; Ant Species; Carpenter Ants; Family: Formicidae; Genus: Camponotus; Wood Ants; Ant Videos : Article Previews

From: "The Wonderful World of Ants" & "Gardening Tips".

Garden Planting and Transplanting Tips
by Dr. Carolyn Pararas-Carayannis

"The best time to plant or transplant plants in your garden is early spring, when new leaf buds begin to swell on the stems, just prior to the leaves maturing. During this time plants are still semi-dormant and the trauma of moving them is much less. If it is late spring and leaves are mature it is recommended that planting and/or transplanting is deferred until the fall, when the cooler temperatures and shorter time of daylight trigger a decrease in physiological processes read more

The Fire Ant
by Dr. Carolyn Pararas-Carayannis

Fire ants are aggressive, stinging ants. Although they are quite tiny and vary in size from 2mm - 6mm, their bites pack quite a punch. If they are on you they will sting you - and it hurts! Fire ants are copper-brown in appearance with slightly darker abdomens. They live in large colonies and one often sees their mounds read more

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Article Citation

Pararas-Carayannis, Carolyn (2008). Carpenter Ants (Wood Ants): The Large Ant Species of Genus Camponotus - Anatomy. Info-Now.Org Website: .

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Carpenter Ants (Wood Ants): The Large Ants of Genus Camponotus - Anatomy by Carolyn Pararas-Carayannis. Educational, informative article with high-definition photos. The second in a three part series (#1-introduction, #2-anatomy, #3-behaviors) about Carpenter Ants, often called "Wood Ants", Genus Camponotus.  

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