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Insects and other arthropods

Carpenter ants

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Camponotus spp.

Tabs group

Description

Carpenter ants are black, tinged with red or brown depending on the species. Males are 9 to 10 mm long, with small heads and two pairs of wings. Females are either queens or workers. Future queens have wings.

The queen is usually much larger than the workers, with a well-developed abdomen.

Workers are from 6 to 13 mm long. Their appearance differs depending on their role: nurses, scouts, soldiers, etc.

Life cycle

Mating takes place in the spring. Each young queen mates with a single male, with copulation taking place in flight. The queen then sheds her wings and looks for a place to found a colony, e.g. in a tree trunk, a large stump or a piece of wood. She lays the first brood of workers and tends to them. Once they hatch, the workers take charge of all tasks in the nest, except for laying eggs, which remains the queen’s job.

The larvae look like small white worms. There are four larval stages, and then the insect weaves a cocoon and turns into a prepupa, an immobile intermediate form. A few days later it metamorphoses into a pupa, resembling the future adult but white and immobile. After a few more days, the adult emerges and takes on its normal colouring.

A colony takes three to six years to become well established, at which time it will hold 2,000 or more workers. As of this point, the queen produces males and future queens at the end of every summer.

In May, all the winged ants leave the nest and take flight. The males die soon after mating and future queens begin looking for an appropriate place for a colony.

Geographic distribution

They are found throughout Quebec, up to the tree line. Two species are common east of the Rockies in Canada. In the United States, they live in forests in the northeast and northwest.

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