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The ant colony: structure and roles

You’ve undoubtedly seen ants crawling around on the sidewalk or maybe inside your home or business, but how much do you know about the ant colony these little insects call their community? Ants are what’s known as social – in other words, they reside in groups. You may dislike ants as pests, but the way they operate is really pretty intriguing. It’s time to learn more about how ant colonies work. Learn below about ant colony structure and the duties ants complete.

Do you have ant infestation on your property? Contact your local Western Exterminator office online to set up a time for someone to come check out the issue.

Ant colony structure

When you see ants all over the ground, you might not view these insects as very orderly, but their society sure is. Ants have separate castes, which are groups of ants that complete a certain duty. Ant castes are queens, workers and males. The queen ant lays eggs. Males die not long after they mate. The worker ants are female ants and most of them stay in the ant nest and complete tasks like tending to the young.

A colony of ants can contain more than one queen, but this depends on what species it is. Queen ants are usually the biggest ants in the colony. A queen ant has wings but removes them after mating. Male ants have wings too. Worker ants do not have wings.

Ant mating habits

The species dictates what time of year a colony is established. Swarmers commonly leave ant nests and go to a specific place. After they mate, queen ants take off their wings and begin a colony. The queen ant uses eggs, fat, and wing muscles for nourishment when beginning the colony. The earliest workers come into existence and tend to the young and make the nest larger.

How many ants are in a colony?

It depends on what species you’re talking about, but the count can be in the thousands. Ant nests can be located underground or in places such as leaf litter. But, a nest can also be located in a home.

Ants can also be hostile to ants from other species or other colonies. Some ants are also capable of stinging for defense from predators and to protect their area.

Worker ants in the colony

While the queen lays eggs, the workers do tasks that help the colony of ants survives. In the colony, worker ants can have different roles. Some workers tend to the eggs, larvae and pupae (ant phases).

Worker ants also clean the eggs and usually feed the larvae. Actually, it’s noteworthy that queen ants receive more food when they are larvae and worker ants received less food when they were larvae. Worker ants that tend to the brood do not often depart from the nest.

Other ants leave the nest to forage for food. The biggest ants go the farthest away from the nest. Interestingly, these ants typically leave chemicals behind that help them know what route to take. Additionally, worker ants build the ant nest. Ants also use their antennae to sense chemicals; this is part of how they share information. When the ant population grows, the ants make the nest bigger.

Queen ant

As central as the worker ants are, the queen ant holds a quite important role too. The queen stores sperm in a pouch in her abdomen. She uses this sperm to fertilize her eggs. If an egg is fertilized, it will become a male – whereas if it is fertilized, it will become a female. Queen ants may live an average of 10 to 15 years.

Ant problem?

Though ant colony structure is neat to read about, ants are certainly not so cool when they’ve infested your property. If you notice ants with wings swarming in your property, this could signify that an ant nest is located inside.

You should feel secure knowing that we can handle your issues. A Western Exterminator expert can undertake an inspection of your property and provide appropriate treatment. Get in touch with us today to do away with pest ants!


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