Ants are known for their chewing and lifting powers, but few people know about their abilities to alter the gender of future nest members.
Can Ants Change Gender? Ants can change gender as the queen can fertilize the eggs to turn them into females, while unfertilized ones become males. Moreover, nourishment also plays a role, and queens suppress a few genes to decrease the nutrient absorption capacity and make them worker ants.
The fate of ants is usually determined at the egg stage by their mother, whether they get sperm to become a female or grow without fertilization.
Moreover, the females also have to make enough struggle to become a queen as they have to be born in the ideal season and with an expressive genome to receive more nutrients.
Do ants have different genders?
Ants’ colonies are pretty complex as they have hundreds of thousands of members with varying tasks to ensure their environmental sustainability.
You can find two different genders in a colony, including males and females, like every other higher animal. In addition, the colonies are divided into different castes according to their functionality.
A large group of female workers comprising almost 65% to 70% of the colony perform food collection tasks and feed the other non-foraging members.
They perform crucial tasks, but the death of a few workers cannot bring significant changes in the colony due to their major percentage, and they can be easily replaced with another one.
In contrast, queens are also female, but their designation differs slightly from workers as they are considered the colony’s royal members.
Only queens are the female colony members that can ensure the continuity of their population by mating with males and collecting sperm in spermathecal.
These can control the number of male and female insects in a nest population as she has the authority to fertilize eggs and make them female. The fate of unfertilized eggs is to become male.
However, the male members are present in a small proportion with a short lifespan as they survive until mating. Their only role in a colony is to transfer sperm to the queen.
Why do ants change gender?
Ants can bring changes in gender as they have the right to determine the fate of an egg. Different factors are responsible for making these insects change gender, like food availability.
Moreover, the seasonal factor also has a significant impact as queens begin to produce unfertilized eggs before the summer season because it is an ideal breeding time.
It is highly dependent on the needs of a colony; queens produce males at mating time and begin to introduce females when the season is not favorable to them.
She prefers to fertilize the eggs at the non-mating time because the colony needs more female workers to collect food and store it inside the nest.
These female workers perform tasks like nursing larvae, feeding the queen, and nourishing the princess, who will become a queen soon.
Furthermore, the queen and workers began to suppress the hormones in an egg to change its fate by changing their nourishment and nutrition.
The diet affects the fate of fertile females when they are at the larval or pupal stage, as a few get better diets than others. Those getting better nutrition develop correctly and become a princess.
So, it occurs for the sake of royalty as the queen and workers can make a few larvae turn into a princess or a future queen while the remaining turn into workers.
How do ants change gender?
The genetic and external environmental factors directly impact the gender determination or caste determination of the members of an ant colony.
You probably have questions about how a colony gets its queen and the factors responsible for discrimination among females.
Every ant cannot become a female, but the eggs having genes from both parents or royal members have comparatively more chances of becoming a queen.
A queen can bring changes in the gender of ants at an egg stage. She is responsible for determining the fate of an egg by fertilizing them with sperm.
The fertilized eggs can become the female members of the colony, while the unfertilized ones have to become male. However, it is not considered wrong to say that their mother determines their gender.
In addition, the workers are in charge of food and nutrition for the princess, which can change their fate from a princess to queen by replacing them if the old one dies.
Some pupae have highly expressed genes responsible for producing insulin-like proteins, enabling them to absorb extra nutrients compared to those with a suppressed gene.
The workers and queens are responsible for sending suppression signals to the gene and controlling their eating patterns, allowing others to get more food and become reproductive members.
Are all ants male?
The colony contains members of different genders, as you can find both males and females. This balance of gender allows these colonies to sustain themselves by reproducing and expanding.
Male ants or drones are produced by the female queen, which means all of them are not masculine; in fact, females control the number of the male population.
In addition, drones cannot live more than a few weeks and die quickly after mating, so a colony cannot entirely depend on these creatures.
Most of them are workers or females that cannot reproduce or do not play any role in the propagation of the colony. However, the colony cannot survive if workers do not provide food to others.
In the same way, the soldiers and nursing members are also females performing the roles of colony protection and feeding the members restricted to nests like queens and larvae.
So, you cannot consider that all of them are masculine because the major authority is of feminine members, constituting more than 90% of the nest population.
How to determine the gender of an ant?
Many people are unaware of the gender of ants and consider all of them the same due to significant similarities in their physiological, behavioral, and genetic characteristics.
However, it is essential to know the difference if you are going to start a new colony at home. You can observe physical differences as they have different body sizes.
The queens are the biggest members with larger abdomens and heads as they store eggs in their abdomen. They are usually two times bigger than workers, while drones are smaller than a queen.
However, workers are smaller than drones, which can be easily distinguished if present closely. In addition, the presence of wings makes a noticeable difference, as only reproductive members have wings.
In the same way, behavioral differences include engagement in activities and response to attacks.
You can mostly find queens lying in the formicarium or showing lesser movements, as these depend on active members like foragers.
Furthermore, you can also check their gender with a test to confirm their genetics, but most of them have almost 75 to 80% same genetic makeup.