Red and Black Carpenter Ants

Ants With Red- and Black-Colored Bodies

As their name suggests, red and black carpenter ants have black abdomens with reddish-brown thoraxes and heads. Popularly known as Florida carpenter ants due to the large population present in the state, these multicolored ants measure from 7 to 20 mm in length and are one of the largest ant species worldwide. Red and black carpenter ant workers may vary in length from 5 to 10 mm, while winged females can reach up to 20 mm in length.

The antennae of red and black carpenter ants have 12 segments. The terminal segment is bullet-shaped, slightly elongated and has no club. The waist of red and black carpenter ants consists of one petiole segment (node), and the tip of the abdomen has a circular ring of hairs. Red and black carpenter ants have long, golden body hairs. (These identifying characteristics are best seen under magnification.)

A key characteristic of all carpenter ants can be seen in the Florida species: the thorax is evenly convex. Sexually active male carpenter ants are smaller than the queens, but have disproportionally smaller heads. Both male and female winged forms possess two pairs of wings that are unequal in size.

As with all carpenter ant species, red and black carpenter ants develop through complete metamorphosis from egg to larvae to pupae and adult. Parent colonies have a single queen, brood and about 2,000 workers, while satellite colonies have no egg-laying queens.

Red and black carpenter ants eat a variety of dead and living plants and insects, as well as sweets, honeydew, meats and other household items. These ants are nocturnal and often forage for food at night. Like other species of carpenter ants, red and black carpenter ants prefer to nest in partially decayed wood, moist areas and other structures that offer consistent temperature, protection from environmental changes and predators. While they have no sting, this ant species can bite and spray formic acid for defense against predators.

Nesting habits of these bicolored ants are similar to other carpenter ant species. They tend to choose areas with moisture problems, such as attics and ceilings, carpets and flooring, windows, doors, trees and shrubs, woodpiles, plumbing, electrical and other utility entries, gutters, vents, trashcans and sheds or doghouses.

close up picture of a red carpenter ant
Close-up of Red and Black Carpenter Ant

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