New York Carpenter Ant Queen

2013 June 12

I found this still-winged queen ant crossing the road on July 26, 2012.

Since she was quite a scurrier, I refrigerated her for a bit for photographs of her underside. She looks dead in the next couple of pictures, but she actually wasn’t – she woke right back up once she warmed up again.

This is a young queen New York Carpenter Ant, Camponotus novaeboracensis. Workers of this species were last seen on this site tending Wooly Alder Aphids. We can tell that she is quite young and probably hasn’t mated yet, because she still has her wings. Once they mate, queen ants shed their wings and look for a place to start a nest.

You can still tell the queens apart from the workers even after she sheds her wings, though. She has a much bigger thorax than the workers do, because she needs the room for her wing muscles.

While the queens aren’t as aggressive as the workers, she would give me a threat display when she thought my finger was getting too close.

So, like the related Black Carpenter Ants, these ants tend to build their nests in rotting wood. They dig galleries all through the wood, and since they are pretty big ants the galleries are pretty big, too. They often get blamed for destroying wood on buildings, but they really only move in when the wood is already rotten. Unlike termites, they can’t digest wood, so they eat the things that grow in the rotting wood. So, if you find carpenter ants tunneling in your house, calling the exterminator isn’t going to help much. Even once they are gone, your house will still be rotting.

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