A social insect, carpenter ants can vary from black, red and black, solid red or even brown in color. Workers range from 1/8-1/2 inch long while queens are slightly larger.
Carpenter ants are mostly active at night, traveling up to 300 feet from their nest when foraging for food, but you may see activity throughout the day as they seek out honey dew-producing aphids, sweets, insects they capture as well as meats and grease.
The presence of several winged carpenter ants in your home strongly suggests that a colony has established itself within the structure. Winged reproductives, which develop in a colony after 3-6 years, will emerge from the nest at various times of the year.
Although carpenter ants can and do infest homes, it is not unusual for foraging carpenter ants that are nesting outdoors to enter homes seeking food. In many cases, carpenter ants will establish themselves in a home when their current nesting location, such as a wood pile or dead tree, has been disturbed or removed. There are many ways they may enter your home, including through attic vents, foundations, cracks, electric wires, pipes and telephone lines.
Another common reason these ants will infest a home occurs when a colony grows in size and creates a satellite colony. In either of these scenarios, ants will enter the home through cracks and gaps in the foundation, holes around water and utility pipe work or by crossing overgrown tree limbs that are in direct contact with the structure.
In some areas of the country, carpenter ants do more damage to structures than termites. Unlike termites, carpenter ants don’t actually eat wood; they excavate it to create galleries for nesting, usually targeting wood whose structural integrity has been compromised by moisture problems, fungus and the like.