Carpenter ants have a varied diet, feeding on sugar, meat and other insects. They also eat honeydew, a secretion from aphids. They are sometimes thought to eat wood, but this is untrue; instead, they chew and dig out galleries in moist or decaying wood.
As carpenter ants hollow out wood for their homes, they produce wood shavings that mix with parts of dead ants. This mixture indicates their presence and can be used to track their nests. They can sometimes be heard as they move around in the woods, producing a rustling noise.
Carpenter ants measure 3.4 to 13 millimeters long. Most are black, but a few species are reddish or yellow. Queens can live up to 25 years, laying up to 20 eggs during their first year. Once a queen starts her colony, she loses her wings and begins producing sterile female workers that forage for food and regurgitate it for the queen. The worker ants live off fluid produced by the queen.
Carpenter ants build two types of colonies: parent colonies and satellite colonies. The parent colony contains the queen, her brood and her workers. However, when there is not sufficient space, workers create satellite colonies to house larger larvae, workers and pupae.