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The Social Structure of Ant Colonies

Ants are social insects, which mean they live in groups. When you see one or two ants walking in your house, they often belong to a colony. Ants live in colonies that are made of different castes. We’ve gathered information to help you understand the social structure of ant colonies.

The Queen

Queen ant

Queens are the leaders of the colony. Their responsibility is to mate and lay eggs. Queen ants can lay thousands of eggs. These ants live deep in the nest where they are protected. Some ant species, like the argentine ant, have more than one queen per colony. Queen ants are larger than other ants in a colony and have wings. They also have longer lifespans with some queens living for more than 20 years.  

The Drones

Ants in house

The drones in an ant colony are the male ants. Drones only have one job—mate with the queen. These ants aren’t usually seen outside of the nest. They typically only leave the nest when it’s time to look for a mate. Like queen ants, the drones have wings. They are smaller than female ants. Males have a lifespan of about a week and die quickly after mating.

The Workers

Worker ants

The last caste in an ant colony consists of the worker ants. These female ants are responsible for taking care of the nest. Worker ants have different jobs including protecting the colony, taking care of the larvae, and finding food. The ants you see running around are most likely worker ants. These ants are larger than males, but smaller than the queen. They don’t lay eggs and don’t have wings. Worker ants can live for a few weeks up to a year.

The Brood

Carpenter ant with egg

Ant eggs, larvae, and pupae are referred to as the brood. Queens lay many eggs throughout their life. These eggs hatch within two weeks. After hatching, worker ants take care of the larvae making sure they eat and stay safe. The larvae develop into pupae before becoming adults. Future queens are determined in the larval stage. Once ants become adults, the new queens leave the nest in search of a mate. Then, they will begin building their own colony.

The Social Structure of an Ant Colony infographic

How Long Do Ant Colonies Survive?

Ants foraging

Colonies can’t survive without a queen. That’s why ants work so hard to keep the queen safe. Queen ants can live for a few decades, so colonies can survive for many years. Other factors can affect the colony’s survival. If ants have trouble finding a food source, they won’t be able to sustain the colony. If an ant colony is attacked by another colony, this can result in the loss of the queen and the downfall of a colony. 

What Are Super Colonies?

Ant trail

Sometimes ant colonies will combine forces and work together. When this happens, they create a super colony. These super colonies are connected through trails that link the nests together. Colonies can contain hundreds of thousands of ants. Super colonies aren’t common since many ant species feel threatened by other colonies. Argentine and red fire ants are known to create super colonies.

An ant colony’s structure helps to ensure the survival of the colony. The ants know their assignments and work hard to complete their task. Understanding this structure can help when dealing with an infestation. You’ll need to attack the source of the infestation and not just the ants you see. If you’re dealing with an invading ant army, we’re here to help! Check out our No Spill Ant Kill and Ant Killer Bait to help keep your home ant-free.


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