If you're curious about carpenter ant infestations, how it happens and how they reproduce, you should try to understand the very structured life cycle of carpenter ants. A colony has one wingless queen and many sterile, wingless, female workers. It also has white, legless larvae and, at certain times, winged females and males.
Carpenter ant colonies, like other ants, replicate by sending out winged males and winged queens to find a new home to set up housekeeping. A colony does not usually produce winged reproductives until it is several years old and has about 2,000 to 3,000 workers.
Approximately 200 to 400 winged ants develop in the summer, remain in the nest through the winter, and leave the nest the following spring or early summer. The ants hibernate (are inactive) during the winter. They will be active, however, if a nest is located in a heated portion of a building – for example, your home!
Carpenter ant reproductives emerge from the colonies on warm days in the late spring and early summer. Mating occurs during a brief flight, after which the male dies. The female newly crowned queen removes her wings and searches for a suitable home, usually located in a cavity in the soft, moist, decaying wood of a hollow tree, stump, or log. She lays fifteen to twenty eggs, which produce the first brood of offspring. The first larvae later become the sterile female workers.
It takes about sixty days for new eggs to become full grown workers according to the carpenter ant life cycle. The workers of the first brood are small because they are nourished only from food reserves that are stored in the queen’s body. They are the small ones, the runts you may see around your home.
Once the workers become adults, the queen’s only function is to lay eggs. The adult workers forage for food, enlarge the nest, and feed and care for the queen and subsequent larvae. They eat dead insects and other small invertebrates. They also eat honeydew secreted by aphids and scale insects from the plants around your home. They regurgitate this food and feed the larvae and the queen. Workers of succeeding broods are larger because the foraging workers feed them.