Indigenous to most forested areas of the world, carpenter ant species thrive in high moisture areas, preferring moist, decaying or hollow wood, most commonly in forest environments. However, some species of carpenter ants have adapted to the dry areas in the American southwest, building nests in dry or rotting wood.
Large black ants, by comparison, measuring from .3 in to 1 in length, their name comes from the fact that carpenter ants excavate wood to make nests, which can be confusing, because carpenters make things from wood, whereas carpenter ants destroy wood causing as much structural damage as termites.
Drawn to moist wood under and around windows, roof eaves, decks and porches, carpenter ants tunnel through damp wood to the solid dry wood inside your home. Carpenter ants also tunnel outside constructing extensive underground tunnel systems, often leading to a food source. Outdoors, carpenter ants prefer to feed on the honeydew produced by aphids. Indoors, carpenter ants go for sugary, fatty foods in your kitchen.
Carpenter ants are foragers. Most species of carpenter ants forage at night, collecting and consuming dead insects. Workers surround dead insects, extract their bodily fluids and carry them back to the nest. Sometimes, carpenter ants bring the head of insects back to the nest, where they extract their inner tissues for food. Also, a few species of carpenter ants collect live insects. Worker carpenter ants forage individually or in groups, although they often opt to forage individually.
Often confused with termites, carpenter ants do not actually eat wood but excavate it in order to carve out their nests, tunneling through moist or damp wood. The presence of sawdust indoors can be a telltale sign of a carpenter ant infestation.