Ant of the Week: Camponotus novaeboracensis

Have you ever wondered what species of ant is featured in the header of this blog?

This is a worker of my favorite ant species, Camponotus novaeboracensis, the New York carpenter ant. You may have seen the species name written lacking the first a (“noveboracensis“), but the species was originally described as Formica novaeboracensis by Fitch in 1854, so that spelling takes precedence.

The New York carpenter ant can be distinguished from other carpenter ants by its large size (major workers be up to 13 mm long), maroon or red trunk (mesosoma), and sparse pubescence on gaster. Like Camponotus pennsylvanicus, the workers are polymorphic, with the different size classes called minors, medias and majors.

Other similar ants are Camponotus chromaiodes, which has much denser pubescence on the gaster and light red through the petiole, into the first segment of the gaster. Camponotus nearcticus is a smaller species, although the workers may resemble minor C. novaeboracensis workers.

New colonies are founded by single, mated queens. The mating flights usually occur in the spring after one of the first thunderstorms of the season. Each queen digs a small chamber in moist, soft rotted wood or sometimes in the soil (claustral founding). Very rarely nests with multiple queens are found.

This video shows a newly established colony in an artificial ant nest. The large size of the ants, the relatively small colony size (roughly 3000 workers), and lack of sting make New York carpenter ants popular.

Colonies live about ten years. Because they live in cold climates, the colony enters diapause in the winter. The colony must undergo a cold treatment in order to come out of diapause. Colonies held at constant room temperature remain in the overwintering state.

The workers are often found tending aphids and treehoppers on plants.

Similar to many other ants, they also scavenge dead insects.

I notice at AntWeb the name is misspelled. The person who collected the specimens shown could have set the record straight.

What species of Camponotus occur where you live?


Fitch, A. 1854. Insect infesting fruit trees. 1. The apple. N.Y. State Agric. Soc. Trams. 14:  709-808.

Hansen, Laurel D. and John H. Klotz. (2005). Carpenter Ants of the United States and Canada. Comstock Publishing Associates, Ithaca.

4 Replies to “Ant of the Week: Camponotus novaeboracensis”

  1. In diapause at the moment are my beloved Camponotus barbaricus. The taxonomy is a little unclear and there is quite little to find about them in the net – they seem to be similar to Camponotus maculatus, even to the point of suggesting a subspecies-status. But, that remains to be seen and found out.
    They come from Cadiz, Spain, and will probably be out of diapause end of February.
    And then I’ll be watching them nearly from the start – a queen and three pygmies and a pupa are the status quo.
    Camponotus do have a very singular elegance about them, don’t you find?

    Regards, Ossein.

  2. I agree that Camponotus are elegant. I googled Camponotus barbaricus and there are a few images. Very nice ants. Keep us informed.

  3. I recently found a newly mated Camponotus novaeboracensis queen and took her into captivity. You can follow her progress here.

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