Have You Seen Big Ants?
Most pest ant species in New Zealand are small (less than 3 mm). Carpenter ants (Camponotus sp.) are much larger ants (6-12 mm) and although they are not established in New Zealand they have been found a few times recently. MPI Biosecurity have carried out eradication programmes and it is hoped that these ants will not become established here.
Carpenter ants do not eat wood; however, they can cause damage to wooden structures by creating galleries within the wood. The ants also have the potential to bite. Carpenter ants do not appear to spread rapidly or move large distances without human assistance.
Carpenter ants will bite if disturbed. Due to their large size, the bite can be painful and potentially break the skin. To prevent these biting ants becoming a problem in New Zealand it is important to report any sightings of large ants to MPI Biosecurity Pest and Disease Hotline on 0800 80 99 66.
What they Look Like
Carpenter ants can vary in size, but adults typically measure 6–12mm. They can vary in colour from red to black. Australian carpenter ants tend to be brown at the head with a honey-coloured mid-section and a dark brown abdomen.
Look out for large ants, ants with wings and ant nests, both inside and outside. Carpenter ants are often most active at night and can be found near sources of water. Nests commonly occur in wood but can be present in other materials.
Carpenter ants tend to be bigger than New Zealand ants. The largest New Zealand native species, Pachycondyla castaneicolor, is about 6 mm, it can sting and is yellowish to orange-brown.
What to Do
- Do not disturb or try to treat the nest (disturbance may cause the ants to move a queen out of the nest to start a new colony).
- Call MPI’s Pest and Disease Hotline on 0800 80 99 66 to report your sighting and if possible, take a photo.
Information provided by the Ministry for Primary Industries
Note: The Blue Pony Ant is another large ant (~7 mm) found in New Zealand. It is an introduced species, but it is not regarded by MPI as biosecurity risk, although it is occasionally a pest.