Pavement Ant vs. Carpenter Ant: How Are They Different?

When you see a swarm of ants crawling around your kitchen or living room, you're probably not too worried about the kind of ants they are. However, the species of ants you're dealing with might have a significant impact on how you handle them. Different varieties of ants can cause different types of damage after they have gained access to your property. When comparing pavement ants to carpenter ants, this is extremely relevant to keep in mind.

So how can you differentiate a pavement ant from a carpenter ant? Carpenter ants prefer to nest in softened, damp wood, whereas pavement ants prefer rocks, pavement cracks, and other hard surfaces. Another distinction is their physical appearance. Carpenter ants are considerably larger than pavement ants. The risks that these species represent to homeowners and their properties are also different.

How to Tell Pavement Ants and Carpenter Ants Apart

For some, all ants may appear to be the same; bothersome pests that infest homes and inflict damage. It’s important to note that not every ant is the same. Pavement ants and carpenter ants have distinct characteristics. Recognizing the distinctions between them can help you figure out which one is currently wreaking havoc on your property and whether you need to hire a pest control company.

Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ant species often choose decayed or damp wood as nesting sites for their colonies. Although carpenter ants don't really eat wood, when colonies are active for several years, they can cause significant damage. You'll often notice sawdust around their kick-out holes, in addition to witnessing them crawling around your house.

Additionally, if you start noticing a winged ant emerging from ceilings, walls, or other concealed spaces, you might have an infestation. In the presence of a severe carpenter ant infestation, you may find stuck doors or windows, sinking ceilings, uneven floors, and bulging walls.


Carpenter ants can come in different sizes from 1/2 to 5/8 of an inch in length. Although black carpenter ants are the most prevalent, certain species may be reddish or yellowish in color. As with the color of this ant species, the color can vary from black to brown, red, orange, yellowish brown, black, yellow, or light brown. Some ants are both red and black in hue.

Because there are numerous species of carpenter ants in North America, size and color are not necessarily accurate identifying features. Carpenter ants are distinguishable from common ant species by their rounded thorax, heart-shaped head, and hair circle around the anus.

The forewings of queen carpenter ants and reproductive males are larger than the hind wings. Sometimes mistaken for a winged termite, the wings of these flying ants are pale brown or translucent. In the spring and fall, winged carpenter ants emerge. After being impregnated, the female flying ants build a carpenter ant nest to establish a new colony.


Carpenter ants, similar to acrobat ants, can infiltrate wood and cause extensive damage to buildings or structures. Compared to regular ants, carpenter ants are among the leading causes of structural damage in most households. Carpenter ants infest wood by establishing a satellite nest, which are tiny versions of the parent colony, outside of the main carpenter ant nest. 

Carpenter ants often have several satellite nests within a structure, making extermination difficult. Before attempting to self-treat a situation like this, consult an insect extermination professional to determine the extent of the carpenter ant infestation and the best course of action.

Food Source

Much like other species of regular ants, such as fire ants and crazy ants, dead insects, termites, budworm larvae, nectar, and aphid honeydew are among the foods consumed by carpenter ants. Carpenter ants are omnivores, meaning they consume both plant and animal matter. Carpenter ants will devour sweets, meat, greasy food, and animal fat when they sneak their way into your home.

Worker ants collect secretions from dead insect parts they encounter, then leave the shell behind, because deceased insects are an excellent source of protein. Carpenter ants, like many other ant species, have a craving for sweets. Similar to regular ants, sugary substances such as tree sap and honey, in addition to nectar and juice, are their top choices.

Life Span

A large and stable carpenter ant colony takes 3 to 6 years to establish. From egg to adult, a carpenter ant's life cycle is acknowledged to be 6 to 12 weeks. The development time of carpenter ants can be extended by up to 10 months in cold temperatures.

Pavement Ants

pavement ants on blocks

One of the easiest methods to recognize pavement ants is to look beneath sidewalks, cement slabs, and huge rocks, where they tend to establish their colonies and forage. Pavement ants invade buildings and homes through gaps in the foundation. Pavement ants are likely discarding debris from excavated nests when you detect small soil particles and sand mounds in structures along crevices in concrete slabs.


Pavement ant workers are 2.5 to 4 mm length, dark brown to black in color, and have parallel lines on the head and thorax. Worker ants are approximately 1/8 to 1/16 of an inch long and dark brown or black in color. A winged ant of this ant species is around twice the size of the workers. In June and July, pavement flying ant swarms typically emerge. Large pavement flying ant swarms can become a problem when they enter buildings and residences.

This ant species are sometimes confused with the dreaded odorous house ant, which can also be found throughout North America. Pavement ants, unlike an odorous house ant, have two nodes in front of the abdomen and fine grooves on the head and thorax. When crushed, they have an acidic scent, whereas the odorous house ant and ghost ant types stink like rotten coconuts.


This insect commonly infiltrates homes through crevices in floorboards, building foundations, and interior slabs. When you see unmistakable heaps of sand and soil on top of foundation walls or near gaps in concrete slabs, you'll be able to tell there's a pavement ant infestation going on.

Once pavement ants infiltrate your home, they will build their nests under floorboards, in attic or wall insulation, underneath carpets, and in moist environments, including under sinks or near toilets. If you suspect an ant infestation indoors, inspect baseboards and carpet edges.

Food Source

Pavement ants eat a wide selection of food. Sugar, nectar, fruits, and syrups are all widely accepted sweet food sources for this ant species. The pavement ant workers also collect dead insects, grease, and small seeds and store them in their nest. Almost any particle of food that falls to the ground will be devoured by these ants.

Life Span

Multiple queens are normally responsible for all egg-laying in pavement ant colonies, while workers care for the offspring throughout the whole life cycle. Pavement ant nests that have multiple queens tend to grow quickly. Worker ants, on the other hand, have a lifespan that can range from a few months to a year, depending on the food source available to their ant colony.

Are Pavement Ants and Carpenter Ants Dangerous?

Pavement ants are completely harmless and serve only as an inconvenience. Carpenter ants are not only a nuisance ant, but they can also harm the structure of your home. To build their nests, carpenter ants gnaw through wood. They will munch through any type of moldy or damp wood, whether indoors or out.

Threats Posed By Pavement Ants

Pavement ants, as their name implies, prefer to live on pavement cracks. They try to conquer neighboring ant colonies in the spring, which results in a large number of dead ants, which makes pavements look unsightly. They make nests in sand and expand their colonies by digging into it.

Although pavement ants have stingers, they rarely attack humans. When you get stung, the stinger is usually too weak to pierce your skin. A pavement ant bite might result in skin discomfort or a rash. These ants aren't venomous, and their bites aren't harmful to humans.

Threats Posed By Carpenter Ants

Carpenter ants, much like termites, are capable of going undiscovered for extended periods of time. By the moment you realize you've got them, you've already got a serious infestation on your hands. Carpenter ant damage is frequently confused with termite damage. Remember that termites consume and digest the cellulose in wood, but carpenter ants just hollow out galleries to establish as nests in wood.

In some situations, these wood-destroyers have the ability to deliver a more devastating blow to wood than termites. There are several species of ants native to the United States, but the carpenter ant is the largest. It’s crucial to immediately address a carpenter ant infestation to prevent further damage.

The Most Effective Ways to Get Rid of Ant Infestations

Whether it's water, food, or shelter, ants have the same basic needs as other creatures. As a result, these little insects have a tendency of infiltrating our homes. While some of these small insects aren't harmful to humans, they can be an undesirable sight, or worse, munch their way through valuable wooden structures and furniture.

Even though we make every attempt to keep our homes clean and spotless, even wiping down those overlooked areas, it isn't always enough to keep the pests away. This is when ant control solutions can help. The following are some ways to help you get rid of an ant infestation:

  • Ant Bait – For some homeowners, bait traps with insecticides may be better than sprays. Bait traps function by luring ants in with sweet or greasy food. The ants consume the bait and return some of it to their nests, where it kills the other ants in their colony. Boric acid or borax is used in several bait traps. Alternative ant baits may be toxic and contain hydramethylnon, which is harmful to children, pets, and food crops.
  • Non-repellent Sprays – In the struggle against ants, non-repellent sprays are extremely efficient. Because ants are unable to detect non-repellent insecticide sprays, they don't try to avoid them. These non-repellent sprays work similarly to baits, only you don't have to entice the ants to eat what you're presenting. In this way, they spread the active ingredient from ant to ant, eventually wiping out the colony.
  • Vinegar Solution – In a spray bottle, combine a 50/50 solution of water and vinegar. To eliminate the ants, spray the vinegar solution directly on them. After which, wipe them up with a damp paper towel and throw them away. Spray vinegar and water around your window sills, doors, and other areas where you observe ants coming inside as a repellent.
  • Essential Oils – Natural ant repellants such as lemongrass oil, peppermint, cinnamon leaf, neem, eucalyptus, lemon, thyme oil, and tea tree oil can help keep ants away from your home. Blend a few drops of essential oil into 2 cups of water. Then, spray around the floorboards, windows, and doors of your home for optimal results.

When to Contact A Pest Control Professional

Ant colonies are extensive communities with a division of work among the several castes, making them challenging to regulate. Once you can properly identify the ant species that have invaded your home, you'll be able to identify the treatment strategies for that specific species.

While most people consider ants to be nuisances rather than pests, carpenter ants may do significant damage to timber structures inside homes. If left untreated, they can cause serious structural damage, resulting in costly repairs and a potentially dangerous living environment.

If everything else fails, consider hiring a professional exterminator to manage your nuisance ant problem. Hire a company that is dedicated to utilizing the least amount of harmful products necessary. Tell them if you have children, pets, or any other health concerns, like a respiratory disease.

Some exterminators utilize phrases like green, organic, or eco-friendly in their titles. If you're worried about chemicals, ask the pest control professional what they usually use in ant treatments before hiring them.

Contact Yale Pest Control for Your Ant Infestation Problems

ants on wood surface

You're one step closer to solving your ant problem if you know the differences between a carpenter and pavement ant. Pests, particularly ants, can be difficult to deal with since they involve a proactive approach and a range of strategies. Whether you have a pharaoh ant, argentine ant, fire ant, or acrobat ant infestation, you should hire a pest control professional for proper ant problem management and treatment.

At Yale Pest Control, we provide high-quality pest control solutions by customizing pest management programs for your home or business and offering exceptional customer service. With our fumigation, nest and colony removal, and other guaranteed successful pest control procedures, you may finally say goodbye to pests in your home or office. Feel free to contact us and schedule an appointment for consultation.