Most people have heard about queen bees, but did you know that queen ants are a thing, too? Like queen bees, wasps, and termites, queen ants direct their colonies' development, protection, as well as do what they can to make sure their colonies thrive. From the queen ant to the worker/foragers exploring your home, ants can be a major annoyance!
What do Queen Ants Look Like?
A typical ant life cycle proceeds through several stages of metamorphosis, similar to the way caterpillars develop into butterflies. In general, ants are very social insects that live and thrive in cooperative colonies. These colonies have a caste structure: males, workers, and queens, and each caste has specific functions to fulfill.
Some female ants end up being fed more royal jelly during the larval stage, and these are the females that later become queens. Queen ants of any species are usually larger, and have thicker bodies, than other members of their colonies.
Do Ants Lay Eggs?
Queens also possess unique wings (and wing muscles). Queen ants are also usually the longest living of the three castes (in some species queen ants can live from one to three decades!), and are able to produce thousands, sometimes millions, of eggs during their lifetimes.
Queen ants and male ants are members of the reproductive castes in the colony, which makes them the most important of all the castes--without them, the colony dies off. Colonies may see two or more generations overlapping during their existence.
After mating, male ants die off and females of many species then shed their wings, and go on to establish new colonies (By the way, colonies with one egg-laying queen are referred to as monogyne, while those with more than one queen are known as polygyne).
Most of the queen ant's eggs develop into sterile female ants, or workers, with no wings (sometimes, winged male and female ants are produced for mating). When the ant colony's first brood develops into adults, they then begin retrieving food for their queens (until that time comes, queens can use proteins shed from their flight muscles as a food reserve). Otherwise, queen ants do not typically forage for food.
What is the Queen Ant’s Role in the Colony?
Queen ants serve the main function of founding and populating ant colonies.
Queen ants leave their home colonies to mate with flying male ants. After mating, the queen will find a new location for her nest, drop her wings, and lay her first eggs. When these eggs have hatched, developed into larvae, and matured into worker ants, the queen begins to lay enough eggs to populate the colony.
That's about where her regal authority ends. Queen ants are groomed and fed by other ants, but don't make decisions for their colonies or receive any other special treatment as some might think.
What Happens When the Queen Ant Dies?
In ant species with only one queen, the colony will usually not survive without her and will die off--the colony's workers are likely to reject a new queen. Workers from some ant species, that have more than one queen for a single colony, will likely accept a new queen. In some other ant species, queens are constantly invading, taking over, and expanding into other colonies.
Do you see ants flying in or around your home? You may have an existing ant colony somewhere nearby (or will soon have one nearby), perhaps even on your property. Just check to make sure what you are seeing are in fact ants and not swarming termites.
Some primary differences between ants and termites:
- Termites have two pairs of wings of equal length, while ants have two pairs of wings as well, but their front wings are larger than the back pair.
- Termites have straight antennae while ants' antennae are curved.
- Termite midsection areas are thick, while ant waists are thin.
How Can I Fight Ants Invading My Home or Yard?
Ants are one of the most prolific and difficult to manage pests of them all, and why wouldn't they be? Remember, some queen ants can produce millions of offspring over the course of several years. They just keep coming back in search of the resources they need: food, water, and sometimes shelter.
Here are a few suggestions to help keep ants from taking over your home and yard:
- Once an ant colony discovers food and water sources in your kitchen and bathroom, they will keep coming back. Indoors, keep food sealed and put away; do NOT leave dirty dishes in the sink. Wipe up crumbs and spills on your counters, and keep the floor swept and mopped. Repair leaky faucets and pipes.
- Repair leaky faucets outdoors and around your home, as well, and also in your basement. Do what you can to "dry up" damp areas around your yard, foundation, and garden.
- Caulk entry points from outdoors (holes, cracks, crevices) where ants can enter your home. Also, seal off holes from utility lines, and cracks around windows and doors.
- If you are already seeing ants in your kitchen or home, try Maggie's Farm Simply Effective No Spill Ant Kill bait stations. These borax-based bait stations are not only super effective, they are very family-, pet-, and earth-friendly. No Spill Ant Kill bait offers foraging ants a sweet treat they will consume and take back to the colony to share with their fellow ants. After a short time, ants who consume the bait will die off (usually within about 24 hours). Depending upon the size of the colony, you can eliminate a colony within days up to a few weeks.
- You can also use Maggie's Farm Simply Effective Ant & Roach Killer spray to spot treat for ants you may see. Keep in mind that baiting is a far more effective long-term solution to your ant problems. Also remember, you should never use an ant spray close to an ant bait as that will prevent foraging ants from getting to the bait to take back to the colony.
You May Need to Call a Professional
There's a lot you can do yourself to help manage ants in your home and yard. If an ant invasion is more than you are able to handle, call a pest control professional.
For more help with ants, read the following articles:
What are your ant control tips and tricks? We want to hear about them! Leave us a comment below!
For scientifically-tested, effective ant control in your home, yard, and garden that is friendly to the environment, try Maggie’s Farm pest control products. Our promise is that our plant and mineral-based products are developed by scientists and seasoned pest control professionals to be the most effective.