Queen ants own all the colony members and behave like a mother as she produces them all, and a few of these insects can become queens. Moreover, she can give birth to a worker, princes, and even male drones that can help raise the population and improve their survival rate.
How Does an Ant Become a Queen? An ant becomes a queen ant when it gets care and attention from its nest mates and is fed a protein-rich diet. Proper food supply helps larvae grow well and develop their reproductive organs to reproduce. Moreover, the female larvae with wings tend to become the next queen ant.
The number of queen ants in a colony differs as some small colonies need only one mother ant, while the larger ones require more than one to meet the colony’s requirements.
When there are many winged egg-laying females, more larvae in the population can become adults and perform essential tasks.
What factors are responsible for making an ant a queen?
A few factors are there that play a crucial role in determining the fate of a queen ant, like their nutritional requirements and care from the nest mates.
Whenever the old queen dies or the colony has to find a new replacement, they choose one of the winged females and provide her with a special diet.
It is also studied that female larvae with wings can move to royalty only when they receive a protein-rich diet.
However, other female larvae having lesser availability of food rich in protein content will become workers.
Proteins are essential for the ideal growth fed by workers at the larval stages that chew proteinaceous food and make them available for larval consumption.
Moreover, it is not only essential for larvae but queens or princesses also need such focus and attention in terms of a better diet as they must be strong enough to lay eggs.
A new queen ant is introduced in the colony when the old one grows well and finds herself capable of laying eggs and introducing more drones and princesses to raise the population.
The workers usually take care of the winged female larvae when they need a new queen in their nest to support the whole colony and raise their number.
During the rainy season, many new larvae are produced, and female ants are developed into a princess. Then, they mate with a male and return to their nest to get a royalty protocol from workers.
Furthermore, princess ants need to be introduced at the right time during the mating season.
All the workers will eat these extra insect larvae if introduced incorrectly as they are consuming the resources or convert larvae into workers or soldiers by altering their growth patterns.
Furthermore, they take care of the larger larvae having a waxy layer as they tend to become colony mothers in the future instead of drawing more nutrients towards smaller larvae as they will become workers.
The composition of these waxy clear helps them identify the larvae type, and they begin to take care of it, which has more chances to become the colony mother due to extra care and attention.
The genetics of the ant species are also crucial in determining the fate of these insects, as there are two gender types in the colony, including males and females.
The males cannot become queens as they cannot lay eggs and increase the colony size. However, the female larvae tend to move to royalty as their reproduction organs support their tasks.
In addition to the queen, the workers and soldiers are also females, so some other factors also play a role except gender, like egg laying capabilities in differentiating the female larvae to be a mother of the nest.
So, you can consider gender as a potent factor that determines whether a larva develops into a queen or not.
A queen ant can control the sex of produced larvae or offspring by managing its fertilization process.
Different types of castes in a colony, like males, workers, soldiers, and the princess, can become future royal mothers due to their well–developed reproductive organs.
Moreover, the mother ants laying eggs secrete a chemical that can efficiently retard the growth of wings in females and make them wingless workers or soldiers.
In addition, it takes control of the development of reproductive organs like ovaries in the newly born larvae. It shifts their fate from becoming a princess and turning them into workers.
She allows larvae to turn into princess ants that has to become a mother to replace her when there are enough workers and soldiers in their colony to feed all the larvae and mothers.
So, you can assume that the fate of an ant is determined mainly before it is born, and the queen itself makes the remaining decision.
It is interesting to know that predators can also determine the fate of an ant, whether it becomes a queen or not.
A nest can contain many winged females that can reproduce. However, when all of these winged females get themselves involved in a nuptial flight, only one or two of them can survive.
Many large birds and insects can attack them when they move out of their nests and engulf them quickly. These come back on the ground, shed their wings, and begin to initiate a new colony by producing new larvae.
At that time, there was a risk of attack from the insects like spiders as they did not have wings to fly and had lesser energy to combat for defense.
So, every winged female that has gained a nuptial flight and mated with winged males cannot become a queen as only a few can survive.
Therefore, you can consider predators as the organisms that decide about the future queen of a nest that takes control of the population.
Are queen ants born or created?
It is considered that princess ants are born with wings and can be involved in a nuptial flight. Genetics or parents of the larvae also help determine the royalty factor.
Moreover, the fate of an ant is decided when it is present at the egg-laying stage, but the diet factor and a few hormones also play a role in turning the female insects into a mother.
Furthermore, the production of fertilized eggs increases the possibility of introducing a princess when favorable conditions, like a protein-rich diet, care and attention, and the need for new queens.
How to identify a queen ant in a colony?
It is not difficult to recognize a queen ant in a colony as it appears yellow, red, dark brown, or even red and is much bigger than males and workers.
Their body size is almost 14 to 17mm long due to better diet and genetic reasons. Moreover, she has a large abdomen, and the trunk region is wider than the head as they have to produce eggs.
They have wing shedding capability and consume them as food in case of a shortage of resources. She remains inside the nest after mating as it needs a single mating to produce eggs for a lifetime.
Furthermore, the presence of wings on their bodies indicates that these are egg-laying insects responsible for the colony’s survival by replacing dying members with new ones.