How Do Ant Colonies Work?

Ant colonies work meticulously through task allocation, since every ant performs a specialized task to help in sustaining the colony. Division of duties within the colony ensure there is proper organization and improves colony survival. There are three distinctive groups within a colony comprised of the workers, the queen and the males. Each group performs an important role to ensure the well-being and success of the colony.

  1. The Queen

    • The queen ant is big, with two pairs of wings and plays the vital role of laying the eggs for the colony. To establish a new colony, a queen will mate with the males, construct a nest, lay the eggs, feed the larvae and produce the first colony. She has the longest life span of about 20 years and can lay 10,000 eggs annually. The queen’s royal quarters, where she lays her eggs, are located deep in the nest. The queen's lifetime task in the colony is procreation, with no other duties allocated to her.

    The Drones

    • Drones are wingless males ants that hatch from unfertilized eggs and do not undertake any work. Their main contribution within the colony is to mate with the queen and fertilizer her eggs. Drones have the shortest life span of around eight weeks, since they die immediately after mating with the queen.

    The Workers

    • Fertilized eggs hatch sterile female ants, providing the workforce for the colony. Workers maintain and clean the nest through repairing any damages in the nest, and taking trash out of the nest. Large female ants guard the nest against attack by other colonies, as well as from other enemies. These soldiers bite to scare off the enemy. Other workers forage, scavenge and carry food back to the nest to feed the colony. Workers also build ant hills through team work, while others look after and feed young ants in the queen’s hatching nest. Theses workers also distribute food within the colony, ensuring everyone is fed, thus minimizing conflict. Toiling workers have a life-span of one year, within which they perform all these tasks.

    Virgin Queens

    • These are a few winged daughters hatched by the queen. Having multiple queens within a colony is challenging, since every queen will produce her own work force. These workers cause conflicts as they might attempt to kill the extra queens to retain a single queen in a colony. Therefore, virgin queens fly away from the nest to start new colonies once they mate. They stockpile the sperm collected from males and remain productive for a lifetime.

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