Camponotus pennsylvanicus

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Camponotus pennsylvanicus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Formicidae
Subfamily: Formicinae
Tribe: Camponotini
Genus: Camponotus
Species: C. pennsylvanicus
Binomial name
Camponotus pennsylvanicus
(De Geer, 1773)

Camponotus pennsylvanicus casent0103692 profile 1.jpg

Camponotus pennsylvanicus casent0103692 dorsal 1.jpg

Specimen labels


This species is the first North American ant to be described. It nests in living and dead trees, rotten logs or stumps in forested areas. This is an important, destructive pest that attacks fences, poles and buildings. This is probably the most destructive carpenter ant in North America (Wheeler and Wheeler 1963), although Creighton (1950) argued that its destructive capacities were somewhat exaggerated and that they only tunnel in decayed wood. It often forages inside homes, making it an important house pest. Reproductives were found in nests from April to October. This species is found in the same logs and stumps as members of the genera Lasius, Formica (i. e. Formica podzolica), and Leptothorax. Workers tend aphids, with the smaller workers collecting honeydew and transferring it to larger workers that carry it back to the nest. In addition, foragers feed on dead insects and plant juices.

Photo Gallery

  • Camponotus pennsylvanicus worker tending aphids. Photo by Tom Murray.
  • Major worker.
  • Worker foraging on tree.
  • Camponotus pennsylvanicus worker that came to harass a Neivamyrmex foraging column proved too much to handle. Nov 2014, East-central Missouri, James Trager.
  • Dealate queen. Photo by Tom Murray.


The majors, minors, females, and males of this species are large, black ants without hairs on the cheeks or sides of the head, or posterior lateral corners, the scapes are without erect hairs, except at the apex, the mesosoma has numerous hairs on the dorsal surface, as does the petiole. The gaster has erect hairs scattered over the entire surface, the tibiae are without erect hairs, except for 2 rows along the flexor surface, in which most hairs are present along the apical half. Appressed pubescence is sparse on most surfaces, including the head, and mesosoma, although the hairs on dorsum are more numerous, but few or none overlap adjacent hairs, the side of the propodeum has a few appressed hairs. The hairs on the gaster are long (over 0.02 mm) and abundant, nearly all hairs overlap adjacent hairs, and are nearly as long as the erect hairs on the gaster. (Mackay and Mackay 2002)

Keys including this Species


Canada, New Brunswick and Quebec. United States, eastern North America and in the south as far west as New Mexico.

Distribution based on Regional Taxon Lists

Nearctic Region: Canada, United States (type locality).
Neotropical Region: Bermuda.

Distribution based on AntMaps


Distribution based on AntWeb specimens

Check data from AntWeb


Primarily a forest species throughout its range, it can also be a pest in homes. For New Mexico (Mackay and Mackay 2002), ranging from prairies to forested areas (ponderosa pine), including riparian habitats with cottonwoods.


In southern New England this species is one of the most abundant and adaptable species across a wide range of forest habitats.

Wheeler (1910) - C. pennsylvanicus ranges over southern Canada and the states as far west as Victoria, Texas, and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Unlike whymperi and modoc it is a lowland form. It is far and away the most abundant Camponotus in the North Atlantic states and Middle West, showing a range of adaptability to differences in temperature and humidity second only to that of Lasius americanus and Formica subsericea. On this account, it is the only one of our Camponoti that has attracted general attention. It is commonly found nesting in old logs and stumps or in the dead wood of standing trees, but occasionally it nests in old houses. In such places it may do considerable damage by tunneling in beams and rafters and may become a domestic nuisance by visiting the sweet food-stuffs in kitchens and pantries. Its habits were first studied by McCook. Recently Pricer and Miss Edith Buckingham have made many interesting observations on its polymorphism and behavior.

Workers tending aphids. Video courtesy of Dick Walton / Natural History Services. CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Gripshover et al. (2018) examined the mechanics of how workers of this species are able to move through water.


This species is a host for the fungus Ophiocordyceps unilaterialis (a pathogen) (Shrestha et al., 2017).


Draft et al. (2018) - A study of antenna olfactory behavior. Abstract:Directed and meaningful animal behavior depends on the ability to sense key features in the environment. Among the different environmental signals, olfactory cues are critically important for foraging, navigation and social communication in many species, including ants. Ants use their two antennae to explore the olfactory world, but how they do so remains largely unknown. In this study, we used high-resolution videography to characterize the antennae dynamics of carpenter ants (Camponotus pennsylvanicus). Antennae are highly active during both odor tracking and exploratory behavior. When tracking, ants used several distinct behavioral strategies with stereotyped antennae sampling patterns (which we call 'sinusoidal', 'probing' and 'trail following'). In all behaviors, left and right antennae movements were anti-correlated, and tracking ants exhibited biases in the use of left versus right antenna to sample the odor trail. These results suggest non-redundant roles for the two antennae. In one of the behavioral modules (trail following), ants used both antennae to detect trail edges and direct subsequent turns, suggesting a specialized form of tropotaxis. Lastly, removal of an antenna resulted not only in less accurate tracking but also in changes in the sampling pattern of the remaining antenna. Our quantitative characterization of odor trail tracking lays a foundation to build better models of olfactory sensory processing and sensorimotor behavior in terrestrial insects.

Life History Traits

  • Mean colony size: 2,200 (Pricer, 1908; Traniello, 1977; Beckers et al., 1989)
  • Foraging behaviour: mass recruiter (Pricer, 1908; Traniello, 1977; Beckers et al., 1989)





The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's New General Catalogue, a catalogue of the world's ants.

  • pennsylvanicus. Formica pensylvanica De Geer, 1773: 603, pl. 31, figs. 9, 10 (s.w.q.m.) U.S.A. [Spelling justifiably emended to pennsylvanica: Buckley, 1866: 155.] Wheeler, G.C. & Wheeler, J. 1953e: 187 (l.). Combination in Camponotus: Mayr, 1862: 666; in C. (Camponotus): Forel, 1914a: 266. Subspecies of herculeanus: Forel, 1879a: 57; Mayr, 1886d: 420; Wheeler, W.M. 1913c: 117; Wheeler, W.M. 1917i: 465; Wheeler, W.M. 1932a: 13; Buren, 1944a: 293. Status as species: Ruzsky, 1896: 67; Forel, 1901h: 70; Forel, 1907e: 10; Wheeler, W.M. 1910d: 335; Emery, 1920b: 255; Creighton, 1950a: 367; Smith, D.R. 1979: 1427. Senior synonym of semipunctata: Mayr, 1886d: 420; of herculeanopennsylvanicus (and its junior synonym mahican): Creighton, 1950a: 367.
  • herculeanopennsylvanicus. Camponotus herculeanus var. herculeanopennsylvanicus Forel, 1879a: 57 (w.) U.S.A. Senior synonym of mahican (unnecessary replacement name): Emery, 1925b: 72. Junior synonym of pennsylvanicus: Creighton, 1950a: 367.
  • mahican. Camponotus herculeanus var. mahican Emery, 1925b: 72 (s.w.) U.S.A. [First available use of Camponotus herculeanus subsp. pennsylvanicus var. mahican Wheeler, W.M. 1910d: 338; unavailable name.] Unnecessary replacement name for herculeanopennsylvanicus and hence junior synonym of the latter: Bolton, 1995b: 110. See also: Creighton, 1950a: 367; Smith, M.R. 1951a: 842.

Unless otherwise noted the text for the remainder of this section is reported from the publication that includes the original description.



Wheeler (1910) - Major and minor. Differing from Camponotus herculeanus in sculpture, pilosity and color. The head and thorax are somewhat less coarsely shagreened and appear therefore more shining. This is especially true of the sides and posterior corners of the head. The gaster is opaque and very coarsely shagreened, with the punctures that bear the pubescence larger and more transversely elongated. The hairs and pubescence are more abundant and longer than in whymperi and Camponotus modoc and of a pale yellow or white color. On the gaster, the pubescence is extremely long and takes the form of dense, appressed hairs which conceal the ground surface and give this region of the body an ashy tint and silky luster. In what may be regarded as the typical form of the subspecies, the body, including the posterior margins of the gastric segments is black throughout, with only the antennal funiculi, tarsi and articulations of the legs dark brown or reddish. In many major workers, however, and especially in minor workers, the mandibles, antennal scapes, legs, pleurae and petiole may vary from very deep to pale red.


Wheeler (1910) - Resembling the worker major, but the whole thorax and gaster are more shining, as in the female whymperi; hairs and pubescence shorter than in the worker major, especially on the gaster, which has the pubescence only a little longer and denser than in whymperi.


Wheeler (1910) - IndistinguIshable from the male of whymperi; black throughout, with only the antennal funiculi and tarsi brown. Wings often as deeply tinged with brown as in the female.


  • Beckers R., Goss, S., Deneubourg, J.L., Pasteels, J.M. 1989. Colony size, communication and ant foraging Strategy. Psyche 96: 239-256 (doi:10.1155/1989/94279).
  • Buczkowski, G. 2011. Suburban sprawl: environmental features affect colony social and spatial structure in the black carpenter ant, Camponotus pennsylvanicus. Ecological Entomology 36: 62–71 (doi:10.1111/j.1365-2311.2010.01245.x).
  • Buren, W. F. 1944a. A list of Iowa ants. Iowa State Coll. J. Sci. 18: 277-312 (page 293, Subspecies/race of herculeanus)
  • Creighton, W. S. 1950a. The ants of North America. Bull. Mus. Comp. Zool. 104: 1-585 (page 367, Status as species, Senior synonym of herculeanopennsylvanicus (and its junior synonym mahican))
  • De Geer, C. 1773. Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire des insectes. Tome troisième. Stockholm: Pierre Hesselberg, 696 pp. (page 603, Formica pennsylvanica; pl 31. figs. 9, 10; soldier, worker, queen, male described)
  • Draft, R. W., M. R. McGill, V. Kapoor, and V. N. Murthy. 2018. Carpenter ants use diverse antennae sampling strategies to track odor trails. Journal of Experimental Biology. 221:13. doi:10.1242/jeb.185124
  • Emery, C. 1920b. Le genre Camponotus Mayr. Nouvel essai de la subdivision en sous-genres. Rev. Zool. Afr. (Bruss.) 8: 229-260 (page 255, Status as species)
  • Forel, A. 1879a. Études myrmécologiques en 1879 (deuxième partie [1re partie en 1878]). Bull. Soc. Vaudoise Sci. Nat. 16: 53-128 (page 57, Subspecies/race of herculeanus)
  • Forel, A. 1901m. Formiciden des Naturhistorischen Museums zu Hamburg. Neue Calyptomyrmex-, Dacryon-, Podomyrma- und Echinopla-Arten. Mitt. Naturhist. Mus. Hambg. 18: 43-82 (page 70, Status as species)
  • Forel, A. 1907h. Formiciden aus dem Naturhistorischen Museum in Hamburg. II. Teil. Neueingänge seit 1900. Mitt. Naturhist. Mus. Hambg. 24: 1-20 (page 10, Status as species)
  • Forel, A. 1914a. Le genre Camponotus Mayr et les genres voisins. Rev. Suisse Zool. 22: 257-276 (page 266, Combination in C.(Camponotus))
  • Gripshover, N. D., S. P. Yanoviak, and E. M. Gora. 2018. A Functional Comparison of Swimming Behavior in Two Temperate Forest Ants (Camponotus pennsylvanicus and Formica subsericea) (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America. 111:319-325. doi:10.1093/aesa/say026
  • Hermann, H. R.; Blum, M. S. 1968. The hymenopterous poison apparatus. VI. Camponotus pennsylvanicus (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Psyche (Camb.) 75: 216-227 (page 216, see also)
  • Klotz, J.H., Greenberg, L., Reid, B.L., Davis, L. 1998. Spatial distribution of colonies of three carpenter ants, Camponotus pennsylvanicus, Camponotus floridanus, Camponotus laevigatus (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Sociobiology 32:51-62.
  • Mayr, G. 1862. Myrmecologische Studien. Verh. K-K. Zool.-Bot. Ges. Wien 12: 649-776 (page 666, Combination in Camponotus)
  • Mayr, G. 1886d. Die Formiciden der Vereinigten Staaten von Nordamerika. Verh. K-K. Zool.-Bot. Ges. Wien 36: 419-464 (page 420, Subspecies/race of herculeanus, Senior synonym of semipunctata)
  • Ruzsky, M. 1896. Verzeichniss der Ameisen des östlichen Russlands und des Uralgebirges. Berl. Entomol. Z. 41: 67-74 (page 67, Status as species)
  • Shrestha B, Tanaka E, Hyun MW, Han JG, Kim CS, Jo JW, Han SK, Oh J, Sung JM, Sung GH. 2017. Mycosphere Essay 19. Cordyceps species parasitizing hymenopteran and hemipteran insects. Mycosphere 8(9): 1424–1442 (DOI 10.5943/mycosphere/8/9/8).
  • Smith, D. R. 1979. Superfamily Formicoidea. Pp. 1323-1467 in: Krombein, K. V., Hurd, P. D., Smith, D. R., Burks, B. D. (eds.) Catalog of Hymenoptera in America north of Mexico. Volume 2. Apocrita (Aculeata). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Pr (page 1427, Status as species)
  • Wheeler, G. C.; Wheeler, J. 1953e. The ant larvae of the subfamily Formicinae. Part II. Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 46: 175-217 (page 187, larva described)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1910g. The North American ants of the genus Camponotus Mayr. Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. 20: 295-354 (page 335, Status as species)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1913d. Ants collected in Georgia by Dr. J. C. Bradley and Mr. W. T. Davis. Psyche (Camb.) 20: 112-117 (page 117, Subspecies/race of herculeanus)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1917k. A list of Indiana ants. Proc. Indiana Acad. Sci. 26: 460-466 (page 465, Subspecies/race of herculeanus)
  • Wheeler, W. M. 1932a. A list of the ants of Florida with descriptions of new forms. J. N. Y. Entomol. Soc. 40: 1-17 (page 13, Subspecies/race of herculeanus)