All members in an ant colony do not look alike; few have wings, while others don’t. However, it creates a difference in the physiological and behavioral characteristics of nest mates.
Which Ants Don’t Have Wings? Workers or sterile female ants in a colony don’t have wings because they don’t have to engage in a nuptial flight due to different functions, as their task is to collect food and feed larvae. Wings can interfere with their foraging and hauling activities because they have smaller bodies.
Variation in the colony is essential for the colony’s survival as they cannot perform similar functions. Accordingly, the insects evolve over time and get rid of non-functional body parts.
What type of ants don’t have wings?
A colony consists of different castes based on their physical appearance and functionality. You can find both winged and sterile female members there according to their functionality.
Queens possess larger muscular structures which are attached to their thorax region and serve two purposes. They can help fly higher to mate and attract males from different colonies.
Secondly, they are used for nourishment after landing on the ground when they cannot leave their nests and use these muscles to get nutrition and feed larvae.
In addition, the male ants also possess two pairs of wings that can help them chase excited female when she flies into the air.
However, female workers do not have these muscular structures as they do not need them.
You cannot find any foraging or non-foraging worker with these flying muscles because they are not born with these structures on the external surface of their bodies.
Furthermore, their lifestyle and challenges are pretty different from the colony’s reproductive members, making them physically different as their bodies evolve over time.
Almost every ant colony has sterile workers; the remaining males and females are reproductive and possess these distinguishing features.
However, the army ant queens look like their workers, and only males of their colonies have such flying capabilities and reach the queen’s nest by leaving their nests.
Why do some ants don’t have wings?
Some ants in a colony do not possess wings for different reasons, including their needs and functionality, as they do not need to fly or mate.
Ability to collect food
Queens use their wings as a source of nutrition when they cannot leave their nests or go out to collect food. These fertile females are not good foragers as they can only reproduce.
Accordingly, these get removed after mating, and the queen eat these detached flying muscles to get nutrition and avoid starvation. However, workers are born to forage and collect food.
They can fulfill their nutritional requirements by locating the food source and consuming the nutritional elements.
Moreover, they do not hesitate walking over several miles because their smaller bodies support movement and allow them to haul the food particles back to the nest to store for the future.
Accordingly, workers do not need nutrition from these flying muscles as they have many other options to survive, meet their hunger, and fulfill energy requirements.
No mating flights
There is a difference in the function of winged colony members because workers have to perform daunting tasks like carrying heavy food particles.
However, these flying muscles allow queens to fly higher in the air for reproduction and raising the population.
The workers do not need to fly as they can crawl on the ground to reach the food source. Some of them are good at jumping using their legs that are strong enough to tolerate the stress.
Moreover, they can move on rough surfaces using their sticky feet when they have to crawl over the tree trunk or water pipes to reach the apartment’s upper floor.
Their body strength, six legs, and power of smell are enough to survive as they can locate food by smelling the particles and protect themselves from predators by running faster.
Smaller body size
Workers lack wing-like structures because their bodies are smaller enough to carry them. They have evolved and removed the unnecessary part of their bodies over time.
It becomes difficult for foragers to crawl by having massive structures on their bodies. However, queens can carry these flying muscles because they are twice of worker’s body size.
They can efficiently maintain these structures due to lesser movement and bigger bodies, but sterile females cannot deal with the unnecessary burden.
Moreover, they continuously move from one place to another and climb different surfaces, so dealing with the additional weight will be difficult.
Expense of energy
The wings need nourishment to grow well and maintain their integrity, so these muscular structures consume a small proportion of nutrients.
Healthy wings can only support a good flight as they need the energy to fly higher, and weaker ones cannot support a flight of more than a few meters.
So, workers evolve themselves and get rid of these energy-consuming organs in their bodies that are useless to them. It is considered a wastage of nutrients to keep these useless things.
In addition, they consume nutrients to increase their body strength as they need strong legs and mandibles to support their activities, like pushing the particles and crushing the hard particles.
Intervention in activities
A pair of wings on the thorax region where all their legs are connected is supposed to create interference as they find it difficult to move and climb surfaces.
It adds weight to their tiny bodies, and they can find difficulties loading the particles on their back if they have flying organs.
The non-foragers can also find problems nursing the larvae because they have to carry eggs and larvae to different chambers or hang them on the chamber walls.
Moreover, their duties differ from the fertile females; that’s why they cannot maintain healthy flying muscles, as they can break while hauling the heavy particles.
Therefore, you cannot find these flying muscles on their bodies as they are not known for this characteristic feature and can easily be identified as workers when roaming around the territory.
How many ants don’t have wings in a colony?
You can see winged females and females who do not possess such structures due to differences in functionality and physical appearance.
Both can be genetically identical but have a few different physiological features. For example, they have different body sizes and colors, and even the wings are not present on workers’ bodies.
A large proportion of the colony members are wingless because sterile females do not possess these structures. Old queen ants lose their wings, but new princesses and males have them.
Furthermore, almost 70 to 75% of the colony is based on workers who can be foragers and nursing insects, which remain inside the nest and care for the larvae and queen’s nutrition.