A major worker Camponotus ephippium guards the entrance to her underground nest. (Victoria, Australia).

Since we’re on the topic of common names, a peeve of mine is the use of “Carpenter Ant” to refer to the genus CamponotusWhile it’s true some Camponotus– including the common North American wood-destroying C. pennsylvanicus– do carve chambers in wood, a great many others nest in the ground where woodworking is not much of a possibility.

An accurate common name for Camponotus is not an arcane problem. This is the single most widespread and abundant ant genus worldwide. If I were to recommend just one genus that non-specialists should recognize, it is this one. Camponotus is found nearly everywhere, often in abundance, and the genus is arguably the most species-rich in the world. With the possible exception of Pheidole big-headed ants, of course.


A thatch nest of Camponotus rufipes (Minas Gerais, Brazil).

Australians call theirs “Sugar Ants”. Camponotus novaehollandiae is the “Northern Common Sugar Ant“, for example. Insofar as all Camponotus like sugar that moniker is decent, but a sweet tooth is hardly a unique behavior among formicids. Still. It’s more accurate than “Carpenter Ants”.


Camponotus punctulatus happy digging away in the sand, no wood to be seen (Parque Nacional El Palmar, Argentina).

Unlike for Polyergus, where I have a decidedly unpopular suggestion, I don’t really know where to start for Camponotus.

Any thoughts?