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280 days of Urbpandemonium #108

 photo P1030359_zpsapmvixvq.jpg
When people tell me they have ants indoors, I ask how big. If they say small, they're probably pavement ants or odorous house ants that are nesting in the cement of the floor or foundation. If they say big, well, then I know the building is in need of repair. Often I'll ask if the ceiling leaked last time it rained--usually it did. These eastern black carpenter ants Camponotus pennsylvanicus* only move in if there's some nice water-damaged wood for them to nest in.

The main nest is in the dead part of a live tree. The ants travel across the branches at night, into the upper levels of wood construction of a building. If there's water damaged wood they can work with their mandibles, they'll bring over several dozen of their larvae. They bring the larvae not just to have a ready-made supply of new workers, but to help them eat. Adult ants can't eat solid food, so they bring bits of insects to the larvae, who chew them up and regurgitate liquid the adults can lap up. Besides dead insects, carpenter ants like sugar-rich foods, like aphid honeydew and discarded and carelessly stored human food.

Carpenter ants are a critical part of the forest ecosystem. They move into trees that have been weakened by fungi to build their nests. Large woodpeckers come to feed on the colony, opening up cavities in the dead wood. Cavity nesting birds depend on these sites to reproduce. Wood ducks, for example, are unable to make their own cavities in which to nest, and thus depend on woodpeckers, carpenter ants, and wood decaying fungi in order to successfully reproduce.

* Camponotus means "flat back", referring to the flattened or weakly curved dorsal mesosomal profile of most Northern Hemisphere species.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 19th, 2015 08:48 pm (UTC)
So pretty! Is that a band of color, or pollen, or sawdust?
Jul. 20th, 2015 02:35 am (UTC)
That's a band of golden hairs, helpful in identifying this species.
Jul. 19th, 2015 11:19 pm (UTC)
I love your blog, and I love entries like this. This is so interesting.
Jul. 20th, 2015 02:36 am (UTC)
Thanks so much!
Jul. 19th, 2015 11:22 pm (UTC)
I just disturbed a nest of the small ants who sometimes pester us inside a planter in my container garden. I was much too annoyed to video them scurrying to disassemble the nest and remove its contents, but I really should have. I hope they find another household to pester! They drive me up the wall when they get into the house. The house we live in now is brand new, and we just moved in a few weeks ago. No sight of ants yet except out in the container garden, and that is a relief.
Jul. 20th, 2015 05:37 am (UTC)
my woods are host to various wood peckers. those pillated ARE big. rodan.

they have chewed into my house prior. cuz they do that. also trees. literally have pecked through dead trees.

i leave a few dead trees as snags, but man, "those things" :D

Jul. 20th, 2015 01:11 pm (UTC)
I ripped out the rotton wood underneath my kitchen sink earlier this year, and was rewarded by having a few dozen of these guys running around in my kitchen for a few months afterwards. They seem to have moved on now.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )


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