Ant Control > Queen ant

Queen ant


At certain seasons of the year swarming occurs. At such a time enormous numbers of winged males and females, previously produced in the nest, leave it and take flight. Mating occurs in the air and the females soon return to the ground where they remove their now useless wings, either by pulling them off with their legs or jaws or by rubbing them against the ground, stones or grass stems. The queen now prepares a nest by digging a hole in the ground, in rotten wood or elsewhere, forming a small chamber at the inner end and closing the entrance.

At certain seasons of the year swarming occurs. At such a time enormous numbers of winged males and females, previously produced in the nest, leave it and take flight. Mating occurs in the air and the females soon return to the ground where they remove their now useless wings, either by pulling them off with their legs or jaws or by rubbing them against the ground, stones or grass stems. The queen now prepares a nest by digging a hole in the ground, in rotten wood or elsewhere, forming a small chamber at the inner end and closing the entrance.

In her cloistered seclusion the queen now passes days, weeks, or even months, waiting for the eggs to mature in her ovaries. When these eggs have reached their full volume at the expense of her fat body and degenerating wing muscles, they are laid, after having been fertilized with a few of the many thousand spermatozoa stored up in the spermatheca during the nuptial flight. The queen nurses them in a little packet till they hatch as minute larvae. These she feeds with a salivary secretion derived by metabolism from the same source as the eggs, namely, from her fat body and wing muscles. The larvae grow slowly, pupate prematurely and hatch as unusually small but otherwise normal workers. In some species it takes fully 10 months to bring such a brood of minim workers to maturity, and during all this time the queen takes no nourishment, but merely draws on her reserve tissues.

As soon as the workers mature they break through the soil and thereby make art entrance to the nest and establish a communication with the outside world. They enlarge the original chamber and continue the excavation in the form of galleries. They go forth in search of food and share it with their exhausted mother, who now exhibits a further and final change in her behavior. She becomes so exceedingly timid and sensitive to light that she hastens to conceal herself on the slightest disturbance to the nest. She soon becomes utterly indifferent to her progeny, leaving them entirely to the care of the workers, while she limits her activities to laying eggs and imbibing liquid food from the tongues of her attendants. This copious nourishment restores her depleted fat body, but her disappearing wing muscles have left her thoracic cavity hollow and filled with air which causes her to float when placed in water. With this circumscribed activity, she lives on, sometimes to an age of 15 years, as a mere egg-laying machine (Wheeler).

Of course, there are many fatalities in such a, history as this. Birds, dryness in their burrows, excessive moisture or cold, underground insects attacking them, all destroy the great majority of these ants just starting new colonies. Then, too, the amount of nourishment stored in the individual is an important factor, some species having so little that they are wholly unable to start new colonies. An individual of such a species therefore either joins a, colony already established, a queerness colony of a related species if she can induce the colony to accept her, or enters a colony of a very different species and, killing its members), raises their young until they emerge when they will accept her as their queen. Rarely two queens may start a colony together.

After the colony is well under way, the queen limits her duties to egglaying and may live many years. In one case a queen lived nearly 15 years in confinement and may have been older! This is the greatest age known to have been attained by any adult insect. The males die soon after mating.