Black Ants vs Carpenter Ants : What’s the Difference?

Ants are common pests that can invade homes and businesses. They can quickly become a large problem when they invade your space. While there are several species of ants carpenter and black ants are the most common types. Black ants and carpenter ants look very similar and can confuse the common person. Knowing the difference between these two species is vital to treating the pest and ensuring a bug free space. 

So let’s look at these two common species.

Carpenter Ant Basics

The name of this species comes from the fact that their nests are built inside of wood. They will carve out tunnels and living areas inside the piece of wood creating a vast series of passages and rooms. Most ants in the colony will work towards expanding this space as the colony itself expands which can cause significant damage over time if left untreated.

Description and Characteristics

It is important to note that they don’t eat the wood like termites. To help further distinguish the carpenter ant from termites and black ants, let’s look at the basic identifying features:

  • Size: Workers typically range from 6.35 to 12.7 mm in length, while queens can be as large as 25.7 mm, making them a larger species of ant.
  • Color: These ants can be black, red, or a combination of both. The most common species in the United States are black or dark brown.
  • Distinguishing Features: They have a distinctive heart-shaped head and strong mandibles (jaws) used for chewing wood. They also have a thin waist, and their thorax (middle section) is evenly rounded when viewed from the side.

In terms of habitation, they prefer moist, decaying wood but can also be found in dry, undamaged wood. They often establish satellite colonies inside homes while the main colony remains outside.

Black Ant Basics

Also known as common black garden ants, they are frequently seen in homes and gardens. These ants are known for their simple yet effective colony structure and their ability to adapt to various environments.

Description and Characteristics

Interestingly, they build nests in various locations including in the soil, under rocks, inside rotting wood, and sometimes within homes. Their colonies are typically large, with a clear hierarchy that includes a queen, workers, and males. These are typically what comes to mind when the word “ant” is brought up, a fact that is more true upon seeing one.

Typical Size and Color

  • Size: Black ants are relatively small. Workers range from 3 to 5 mm in length, while queens can grow up to 15 mm.
  • Color: As their name suggests, these ants are predominantly black. Some might appear dark brown, but their overall color is quite uniform. 
  • Distinguishing Features: They have a distinct three-segment body with a narrow waist between the thorax and abdomen. Their antennae are elbowed, which help them sense their environment and communicate along with identifying them.

While they build their nests in a variety of different places, it is easy to tell which nest is theirs. All you have to do is follow the trails! Black ants form long lines to food sources and back to the nest.

Differences in Habitats Between Carpenter Ants vs. Black Ants

A large difference between carpenter ants and black ants can be seen in the nesting sites. Understanding these habits of home helps in not only the identification but also the prevention.

Carpenter Ants: Masters of Wood

As the name suggests, their nests are commonly found in:

  • Rotting Trees
  • Wooden Structures (especially those that have some moisture like window sills)
  • Fallen Logs and Stumps

Black Ants: Lovers of Open Spaces

Meanwhile, these ants’ nests are commonly built:

  • Under Rocks
  • Inside Walls
  • Lawns and Gardens (typically in exposed soil or under piles of leaves)

Behavioral Differences Between Carpenter Ants and Black Ants

Understanding the differences between carpenter ants vs black ants is essential for effective pest control. Let’s explore how these two types of ants vary in behavior and diet.

  • Nesting Habits: As talked about earlier, as a carpenter ant colony grows, the wood that is their nest weakens. This is why you must get rid of carpenter ants quickly. Meanwhile, the common black ant colony, generally, causes no or slight damage to your property. 
  • Activity Levels: Carpenter ants are particularly active at night, which is when they often go out to search for food. Black ants are more visible during the day and are often seen marching in their lines.

Differences in Diet 

Like most other bugs, ants also have a wide diet. While ant species to have similarities in what they eat, there are some key differences to note.

  • Carpenter Ants: While they don’t eat wood, they seek proteins and sweets. They often feed on dead insects and can be attracted to sugary foods within your home.
  • Black Ants: These ants are more attracted to sweet substances. They love sugary liquids, such as honeydew produced by aphids, which they farm. Black ants are less likely to hunt for protein sources compared to carpenter ants.

How to Identify Either Infestation

When you spot ants in your home or on your property, it’s crucial to know which type as each type requires different handling, and misidentification can lead to ineffective treatment. 

Signs of a Carpenter Ant Infestation

  • Wood Damage: Look for smooth, clean galleries inside wood structures, unlike the rough, messy tunnels termites make.
  • Sawdust Piles: Carpenter ants leave behind piles of sawdust-like material called frass, which results from their tunneling.
  • Noises in the Walls: You might hear faint rustling sounds as the ants work inside wood structures.

Signs of a Black Ant Infestation

  • Trails: Black ants form well-defined trails that lead to food sources, which are often visible along walls, cabinets, or floors.
  • Nest Sites: They build nests in protected, moist environments, often in the ground or under rocks, not typically inside wood.

Regardless of Carpenter ants vs Black Ants, it’s about Preventing Them

Preventing an ant problem, regardless of the species, starts with understanding how these pests enter your home and what attracts them. Here are some effective prevention tips:

  • Keep Your Home Clean: Make sure food crumbs and spills are cleaned up immediately. Store food in sealed containers and keep your kitchen tidy.
  • Remove Moisture: Both types of ants are attracted to moisture. Fix leaky pipes and ensure areas around your home are dry.
  • Seal Entry Points: Check for cracks in your home’s foundation, gaps around windows, and doors. Seal these entry points to prevent ants from entering.
  • Trim Tree Branches: Both carpenter and black ants can enter your home via tree branches touching your house. Keep branches trimmed away from your home.

While these tips can help you identify which species is affecting you, DIY can only go so far. It’s important to learn when the call in the big guns.

When to Call Pest Control to get rid of Carpenter Ants or Black Ants.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you might need professional help. Here’s when you should consider calling a pest management professional:

  • Persistent Infestations
  • Large Colonies
  • Structural Damage
  • Identifying the Species

If you have ants, reach out to 417 Pest Solutions Today for our Top Rated Services!

Dealing with any pest problem can be stressful and challenging. If you find yourself stressed about an ant problem or any other pest, call us today! We provide expert ant control services tailored to your specific needs alongside ensuring that the pests stay away! Remember, peace of mind and a bug-free home is only a call away when you call 417 Pest Solutions!