Does the colony outlive the queen? More importantly, how long does the queen live? These and more will be discussed shortly.
You’ll need to stick around to find out more.
When discussing ants and their activity, little is said about the queen. These highly organized creatures have hierarchies they maintain.
Their colony is divided into castes with each caste performing certain functions. Basically, there are three castes within an ant colony consisting of the queen, reproductive male ants as well as workers.
Of these ant castes, we’re more interested in discussing the queen. An ant queen sustains the colony by laying thousands of eggs. All the activities within the colony revolve around her.
Without the queen, the nest can’t survive.
Introducing Ant Colony Castes
For a more comprehensive discussion, it’s necessary to briefly discuss the castes within an ant colony. As mentioned earlier, there’s the queen, the reproductive male ants as well as the workers.
As suggested by the title, and queens head or are in charge of the colony. In other words, they’re the founders of the colony. The primary role of the queen is to sustain the colony by laying eggs.
By serving the needs of the ant queen, other caste members indirectly sustain the colony.
Of all ant colony members, the queen is the largest. This is followed by male reproductive ants which are either the same size as worker ants or a bit larger.
Reproductive Male Ants
Reproductive male ants are there specifically to help perpetuate the colony. They mate with the queen which results in the laying of eggs by the queen.
Reproductive male ants are identifiable by their smaller heads with large eyes.
Workers are the busiest among all caste members. They play a key function in sustaining the colony.
As the queen’s offspring, their main functions are to forage for food while also helping with waste disposal. These also protect the colony.
Does an Ant Colony Outlive the Queen?
Having discussed the key role played by an ant queen, it’s necessary to consider whether the colony will outlive the queen. Ant queens aren’t immortal. At some point, they die off, thus creating a vacuum.
As the sole founder and sustainer of the colony, her absence creates a sustainability problem.
At this point, there are no new offspring. This situation leads to an aging workforce with not replacement. It’s important to note that the death of an ant queen won’t immediately cause a colony to stop existing.
The colony continues for as long as other ant caste members exist.
With the last and dying, the existence of the colony ceases. Now, the question of fertility is likely to arise. Is an ant queen the only fertile female of the colony? Absolutely! Reproduction begins and ends with the queen.
Other female members of the colony are sterile and can’t take over from where the queen left off.
After An Ant Queen Dies: What Next?
The importance of an ant queen can’t be stressed enough.
Although other colony members or castes are important, their level of importance pales compared to that of the queen. Ant queens play a vital role in reproduction.
Without them, the colony ceases to exist due to the sterility of other female cast members.
After the death of an ant queen, the colony remains functional until the last and dies. The reasons for this have been stated earlier. This is why an ant colony doesn’t last forever.
However, a colony will give rise to lots of other colonies elsewhere.
How Long Does an Ant Queen Live?
Due to the vital role of colony sustenance played by the queen, it’s necessary to know how long she lives. The typical lifespan of queen ants is about a decade.
That’s significantly longer when compared to those of other colony members or castes.
There are records of certain ant queens living for as long as 3 decades! That’s more than some humans ever live. It’s quite significant because most people are oblivious of the lifespan that queens live.
With this knowledge, you’re likely to view ants with more respect.
However, the truth is, queen ants are difficult to get to. These creatures are well protected by soldier ants. They are usually found in the middle of ant nests.
Sometimes, you may be lucky enough to spot them without difficulty. Their size tends to be larger than others.
How New Ant Colonies are formed
During the lifecycle of an ant colony, queens severally lay eggs that hatch into winged males and females.
These are known as alates are specifically meant to perpetuate the colony elsewhere. In other words, alates are meant to reproduce and establish colonies in new locations.
However, they need to be matured first before embarking on such a journey. Like termites, these ants leave their colony in swarms towards new destinations.
Of course, such a destination must be favorable enough to support the establishment of new colonies.
With mating completed between male and female alates, most of the male ants soon die off with a few females too.
Surviving females then become queens by laying eggs and hatching new ants who serve or carry out many roles as discussed earlier.
The lifespan of An Ant Colony
In discussing the lifespan of a queen ant, it’s also logical to discuss the colony lifespan.
We’ve earlier stated that ant queens can live over a decade. When the queen dies, the colony doesn’t cease to exist immediately. It only ends when the last ant in the colony dies.
The ant species will determine the colony lifespan. Generally, the lifespan will be determined by the queen’s lifespan.
After the queen dies, the colony may remain inhabited for about a year before the last of the colony member dies. Remember that there’s no replenishment of new members as the queen is dead.
The lifespan of the queen ant has been discussed so far.
With this information, you’re able to better appreciate ant behavior. What more? You get to understand the gravity of your ant problem if faced with one.