How the Queen Ant Rules Her Colony

You’ve probably heard of queen bees — but what about queen ants? Queen ants do exist, and just like their counterparts in bee, wasp and termite societies, their job is to make sure their colonies thrive.

queen ant

Do Ants Lay Eggs?

Ants are oviparous animals, meaning they reproduce by laying, fertilizing and hatching eggs. These eggs are also part of the mechanism that allows ant populations to number in the thousands and millions. However, not all female ants are capable of reproduction. If you've ever encountered an ant with wings, you've been in the presence of a potential ant queen (or king).

How Does a Queen Ant Become Queen?

The ant life cycle proceeds through several stages of metamorphosis. Just as caterpillars eventually transform into butterflies, individual ants grow into one of three roles within the colony: queen, worker or male. Female ants that were fed more royal jelly when they were larvae later become queen. Worker ants are also female. This metamorphosis can take weeks or months to complete. Influencing factors include the environmental conditions and the species. Once a queen ant reaches maturity, she can live a very long life — up to 30 years with some ant species.

What is the Queen Ant’s Role in the Colony?

Queen ants have two main responsibilities. First, queens are the founders of all ant colonies. A queen ant will leave the colony she was born into and mate with flying male ants. After mating, she will scurry off to find a new location for her nest, lose her wings and lay her first clutch of eggs. Once these eggs have hatched, developed into larvae and then matured into workers, the queen begins to concentrate on her second task — laying enough eggs to populate her kingdom. 

Queen ants can produce millions of eggs in their lifetime. However, being in charge of supplying successive generations of "subjects" is where the queen's authority ends. She doesn’t make decisions for the colony. In fact, beyond the grooming and feeding she receives from other ants, the queen ant enjoys no real special treatment or authority.

What Happens When the Queen Ant Dies?

In ant species ruled by a single queen, the colony typically dies out with her as the colony's workers will likely reject a new queen. In other ant species, however, several queens live in a single colony. When one dies, the workers will accept a successor. In other ant species, the transfer of power is anything but peaceful. Queens are constantly invading and taking over each other's colonies.

Are ants flying in or around your home? That may be a sign that you have an existing ant colony somewhere on your property or that you are about to become host to one. A pest control professional can help. Contact Terminix® for a free quote to make sure you remain the king or queen of your castle.


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