What do ants do when their queen dies? Find out.
Every ant colony you see is sustained by a queen ant. Sustenance in this sense refers to the role of reproduction.
Without the queen ant, the colony is effectively over.
What Happens To An Ant Colony When Queen Dies?
Ants have a well-organized structure which has made them very successful in establishing and running their colonies with no difficulty.
Not only will we be discussing what happens after a queen ant dies, but we’ll also be looking at the roles of the queen ant as well as those of other colony members.
Of course, all members of the ant colony are crucial to its existence.
In other words, colony members have unique roles to play without which the colony suffers.
Ant Colony Structure and Roles
To have an idea of what goes on within an ant colony when the queen dies, it will be necessary to first consider the basic structure and roles of the colony.
Ants have a well-structured society with castes differentiating roles. Apart from the queen who reproduces for the colony, other colony members include the workers and males.
There are also the alates that are specifically meant to establish colonies elsewhere after attaining maturity. The males have the least lifespan as they do not live for long after mating.
One interesting fact about an ant colony is that it may have more than one queen.
However, not all ant species will have more than one ant within a colony. More on this will be discussed shortly.
i. Roles of Colony Members
As earlier stated, ant colonies are well structured with caste members having their unique roles.
Let’s have a look at the castes present within such colonies; queen ants, worker ants, male ants, and flying ants (alates).
Queen ants have an unbelievably long lifespan. They live an average of 10 to 15 years and are responsible for perpetuating the existence of a colony. Of course, the queen needs support from the male in terms of mating.
Sperm is stored in a special pouch found in her abdomen which helps with fertilization.
The origin of every colony begins with a male and female ant. These ants pair up (male and female) and fly off to start a colony. When they land, they shed off their wings and mate.
The male dies while the female begins her new colony by giving birth to new members.
These members consist of worker ants, male ants as well as flying ants. Without the queen ant, it will be impossible for an ant colony to remain in existence as there are no new members.
As the name implies, worker ants do all the work of food gathering in addition to nursing newly hatched young.
Their roles are very crucial to the survival of the colony as they move in search of food sources and haul such back to the colony.
Flying or Male Ants
Male ants mate and die off. Also called drones, these ants don’t live for long after mating with the queen. They’re produced specifically for this purpose and help queens start their own colonies.
These are widely called flying sperms due to their reproductive role in mating.
What Happens When You Kill The Queen Ant?
From our discussions so far, it’s obvious that the importance of the queen ant cannot be downplayed. We’ve mentioned that the queen ant is likely to live for a decade or more.
Within this time she lays millions of eggs that help sustain the colony by hatching into new members.
Of course, the death of the queen would mean the end of the colony.
While this is true, the colony doesn’t end immediately. With no new members being hatched, the population steadily depletes as members die off.
Unlike the queen, worker ants can only live for as long as 5 years.
This is still significant. Nevertheless, as worker ants and flying ants all die off, the colony eventually becomes desolate. In other words, there are no ants left within the colony.
A Dead Queen Ant Means the End of a Colony except…
In the course of our discussion, we mentioned that certain ant colonies have more than one queen ant. This is remarkable because some species only have a single queen ant in a colony.
Those with a single queen to a colony are called monogyne while species with multiple ants within a single colony are called polygyne.
Polygynes Outlast Monogynes
From the explanation provided, it’s obvious that a polygynous would outlast a monogynous. This is simply because the death of the only queen ant within the monogyne would signal the end of the colony.
Under the monogynous ant colony, members eventually die of age-related causes or other external forces. There have been claims though that monogynous ant colony members would recruit a foreign queen to sustain their colony.
However, that isn’t proven at all. There is no clear proof about that happening. More so, there are lots of cases of ant colonies being desolate due to the death of every colony member.
A colony without a queen ant slowly winds down until the last of the ants dies.
In the case of a polygynous ant colony, the death of a queen ant will be hardly felt as several other queens will perpetuate the colony.
In other words, the end of the reproductive roles of a dead queen won’t matter much as other queens will be busy replenishing the colony.
The only exception will be when all queen ants within the polygynous colony die off. Then, the large colony is likely to slowly wind down.
How Many Ants Are found in a Colony?
Ant colony sizes could vary depending on ant species.
While some species only have a handful of members, others have thousands of individual ants. The longer the ant colony is, the more members there are likely to be.
Polygynous colonies should have the most population because they’re home to many queen ants. Despite this number, their typical populations run into the thousands.
A queen ant is crucial to the survival of any colony due to her reproductive functions. We’ve discussed this as well as those of other ant castes.