The Carpenter Ants of the Pacific Northwest
Carpenter ants make two types of nests. The main nest is build by the queen, she tunnels into decaying wood to begin the main nest. This site must be damp all the time for the eggs and younger larvae to survive. Well established nests may contain thousands of ants, but it can take several years for a new nest to build up to even a few hundred individuals. Main nests are usually outdoors in rotting stumps, trees or in decaying landscape timbers.
They can become established in houses where wood in the structure has begun to decay. Although carpenter ants do not eat wood, they do tunnel into it to make their galleries. Once they establish a nest in damp wood they will eventually damage the structure by tunneling from the decaying wood into the sound wood.
After a Carpenter ant nest gets quite big, they will create satellite nests. These nests are often in walls, ceilings or under insulation in attics or crawl spaces.Most nests in houses are satellite nests that maintain communication with the main nest.
A carpenter ant nest has one egg laying queen and many sterile female workers. The eggs she lays are white and the pupae cocoons are tan. Usually, a nest does not produce winged males and queens until it is several years old and has about around 3,000 workers. At this time, about 300 winged ants develop during the summer months, but remain in the nest through the winter, they will leave the nest the first hot day of spring or early summer. Mating occurs during flight, after which the males die, and the female removes her wings and searches for a suitable nesting site. A new queen lays fifteen to twenty eggs, which are her first offspring. The white larvae later become the first sterile female workers.
These larvae take about sixty days to become workers. They are small because they are nourished only from food reserves that are stored in the queen’s body. But once these workers become adults and can gather food, the queen only has to lay eggs. The adult workers feed and care for the queen and subsequent larvae. They eat dead insects and other small invertebrates as well as the honeydew secreted by aphids and scale insects. They regurgitate this food and feed the larvae and the queen. Future workers are larger because the foraging adults feed them.