Carpenter ants do not eat wood. This is a common misconception. They simply live in the wood. Ants consume a wide variety of plants and animals to create stores of different nutrients. As for carpenter ants, the staples of their diet are:
– Excrement of honeydew producing insects like mealy bugs, soft scales, or aphids
– Decomposing animals such as snakes, frogs, etc.
– Other insects
Carpenter ants eat insects for several reasons. They are a very economical organism, and so when they find any bit of food, they are not inclined to let it go to waste – carpenter ants eat their own dead to keep the nutrients left in the carcass from going to waste. This extends to when carpenter ants kill other pests for self-defense, as well, or to pests killed in defense of the aphids or scales that produce the main ingredient of their diets.
Some ants prefer fatty foods, but carpenter ants – and most other ants, as well – generally search for foods that are high in sugars because the biochemical structure of their bodies takes sugars and polymers and, through a complex biosynthesis, turns these sugars into amino acids and other chemical compounds essential for cellular life. Special organs in carpenter ants and other arthropod insects, called fat bodies, hold cells that specialize in carrying this transformation through, and then holding the nutrients until needed.
When carpenter ants devour, they consume what they can and carry the rest. When the worker carpenter ants get back to the nest, they store the food they have carried, and share the food they have eaten – and digested – through a process called trophallaxis which is basically regurgitation of the food which has now been processed into amino acids and necessary proteins.
The carpenter ant queen uses this method of trophallaxis when first establishing the colony. Once her first set of larvae are hatched from their eggs, the queen cannot leave to get food, and instead eats her own wings, metabolizing the nutrients from them and, in turn, feeding them to her young.
Other insects and ants are the best food for carpenter ants because they contain the same biological organs that convert foods to the specific nutrients that carpenter ants need. According to professional pest control sydney When eating other insects, the carpenter ants consume everything but the exoskeletons, which saves them energy because their bodies do not have to convert the sugars into the amino acids as they do when eating regular sugars or plants containing sugars.