In a recent publication called “Carpenter Ants and Their Control,” Donald Lewis, professor and extension entomologist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, explains how to identify and control these ants.
Infestations by "big, black ants" often are a sign of a tree that has already been weakened by other damage.
The description of “"big, black ant" nearly always refers to carpenter ants, even though other species of ants are nearly as large and black, also. Carpenter ants are much feared, usually more so than is warranted. On occasion, carpenter ants do ruin window frames, door sills, deck boards and other things made of lumber. However, in almost all cases of severe damage there is also a persistent and long-standing moisture problem. Too much moisture in lumber leads to both wood decay and carpenter ants. It's hard to say which lets you down faster.