What Do Carpenter Ants Look Like?

What Do Carpenter Ants Look Like?

Carpenter ants (Camponotus spp.) are large, black or red ants that were first formally recognized in 1773. Interestingly, a species of this ant type (Camponotus pennsylvanicus) was the first type of ant to receive a name in North America. 

Ants come in many colors and sizes, and that diversity provides a methodical way to differentiate between species and identify the type of pest you’re dealing with. It’s possible to confuse the different ant species (there are over 1,000 in the United States), but with the following information, you can get a better idea of whether you’re dealing with carpenter ants or not. 

And remember, you don’t need to know which species you’re dealing with to call us at Joshua’s Pest Control. Let us know that you have ants, and we’ll come to your home to identify the pests and help you get rid of them. Whether it turns out to be carpenter ants, termites, or another offender, we have you covered. 


Identifying a carpenter ant is simple if you know what to look for. One of the most common species, C. pennsylvanicus, has a dull, black-colored head and body. Its abdomen has a number of yellowish-white hairs. Interestingly, unlike some ant species, all castes of carpenter ants are black, though they may range in size. Queens can get up to one inch long, while the smallest carpenter ants may be only 3/16 inches long. 

Carpenter ants queens lose their wings after mating, but male reproductives do not. In fact, male reproductives are often confused with termite swarmers. Male reproductive carpenter ants usually die after mating

Carpenter ants have a rounded thorax that may appear to have a dull black-on-black stripe or ridge across it (due to the arrangement of the hairs). 


While both carpenter ants and odorous house ants can be found indoors, these two types of ants don’t typically look or act alike. It’s important to know the difference; while odorous house ants can be annoying, they don’t typically damage the structure of your home like carpenter ants can. 


There are several species of carpenter ants (Camponotus spp.) found in the United States, and most live in the northeastern regions of the country. The red carpenter ant, Camponotus chromaiodes, can be found throughout the eastern United States (with the exception of northern New England and the state of Florida).  

Odorous house ants (Tapinoma sessile) can be found all over the United States. They prefer to nest in moist areas like mulch beds or under wood. Inside, they can live in walls or areas with damp insulation or wood. These ants love sweets, so you can expect to find them in or around pet food, sugary foods, and sweet beverages.


Carpenter ants are big ants, with queens getting up to an inch long. Most carpenter ants range in length between ¼ and ½ inches. 

Carpenter ants are usually black and may appear to be unusually large compared to their other ant counterparts. There is an exception, which is the Camponotus chromaiodes, the red carpenter ant. 

Odorous house ants are normally dark brown or black. They usually get no larger than ⅛ inch and have a single node (petiole) on their waists. Their antennae are made up of 12 segments. 


Carpenter ants damage wood by hollowing it out in order to nest inside. They tend to eject thick, fragmented sawdust from holes, which you may notice if you have carpenter ants in your home. Carpenter ants generally nest in any type of wood, but they prefer to be in moist wood. That’s why it’s common to find them around poorly-sealed windows or in the walls of bathrooms. Carpenter ants create parent and satellite colonies. 

When crushed, odorous house ants give off the scent of rotten coconut (hence their common name). Some people describe it as a blue-cheese-like scent.

The difference between these two types of ants is stark, so it should be easier to tell them apart compared to other types of ants. That being said, with so many species of ants, there could be variances. Fortunately, you don’t need to know which type of ant is infesting your home in order for our field expert to come inspect. 


Carpenter ants and termites are not the same. The main difference is that carpenter ants don’t eat wood like termites do. Instead, they tunnel into wood and build their colonies there. 

This comparison chart explains additional ways to differentiate between these two wood-destorying pests:


Carpenter Ants (Camponotus spp.) Termites (IInfraorder Isoptera infraorder)
Queens live up to 10 years. Males usually die shortly after mating. 


Queens may live for up to 30 years. Workers and soldiers usually live around one to two years. Others, including reproductive swarmers, can live up to four years. 


Ants go through four life stages. These stages include egg, larva, pupa, and adult. 


Termites go through three life stages: egg, larva, and adult. 


Carpenter ants have pinched waists and elbowed antennae. Their wings appear proportionate to their bodies. 


Termites don’t have pinched waists—they’re thicker in appearance. They don’t have elbowed antennae, and their wings are longer than their bodies.




At Joshua’s Pest Control, we know that dealing with any kind of pest can be a hassle. Whether you think you have carpenter ants, odorous house ants, or termites, we’re here to help you get them under control. Contact us today to set up an appointment or to learn more about our services. 



Courtney Enzor has worked in the pest control industry for about a decade. From helping you build a fly trap to giving you the best tips for identifying various bugs, she loves answering all your pest-related questions and sharing her pest-related expertise through writing. At the end of the day, she hopes her content will help people avoid mishaps and keep families happy and healthy!