The Secrets of Royalty - Amazing Facts About Queen Ants

It may be hard to believe, but your store is situated within feet of a royal kingdom. In fact, a member of royalty may be living in your store and you don’t even know it!

Unfortunately, we’re not referring to Prince William and Kate, because that actually would be quite exciting. Instead, we’re talking about ants – namely queen ants and how this one member of an ant colony is the key to success for every ant nest.

As the mother to an entire ant colony, her highness holds a lofty role in her society – but she’s not everything you (or your customers) think she is, either.

WHAT IS THE QUEEN ANT ROLE IN AN ANT COLONY?

Queen ants have two primary roles.

  • Early life: Queen ants are programmed to begin creating a new colony. After mating, this young queen finds a new nest site, where she lays her initial group of eggs.
  • Remainder of life: Once the first batch of larvae matures and begins its duties, the queen becomes an egg-laying machine. Some queens produce millions of eggs in a lifetime.

WHAT A QUEEN ANT DOESN’T DO

It should be noted that despite the royal title, the queen ant has no real authority over a colony. She does not direct other ants or make decisions for the colony. Instead, she – just like every other ant in the colony – is motivated by instinct and a general sense of how she can provide for colony needs. The only royal pampering she gets is that other ants will bring her food and keep her clean.

WHAT MAKES QUEEN ANTS DIFFERENT FROM OTHER ANTS?

As the only egg layer of the colony, the queen is integral to the survival of the colony. Other ant castes exist, including:

  • Worker ants: Female ants that forage for food, clean the colony or tend to the queen.
  • Soldiers: Females responsible for protecting the colony.
  • Drones: The only males in the colony. Their job is to fertilize the queen and princesses.
  • Princesses: These up-and-coming queens will eventually leave the colony.

Of course not every ant species features a queen-focused civilization. Some colonies have more than one queen, which helps a colony expand quickly. Other colonies have no true queens. Instead, some worker ants have the ability to reproduce.

HOW ARE QUEEN ANTS CREATED?

As a typical ant colony matures, it switches gears. Instead of focusing on its own growth, it looks to completely reproduce itself. When that stage arrives, the queen in the current colony will periodically produce new queens and drones. These “princesses” and their male drones will then leave the colony to mate.

Once successfully mated, these new queens start the process all over again – each finds a new location to establish her own colony and begins to produce eggs.

HOW CAN I IDENTIFY A QUEEN ANT?

Queen ants differ from the rest of the ant colony in several ways. For one thing, queen ants can be incredibly long-lived – one scientist had a queen that lived for almost 30 years. In the wild, it’s not uncommon to find queens that are more than a decade old. Ants from other castes may have a lifespan of a few months to a year or two.

Other identifying features of a queen:

  • Size: Queen ants are almost always bigger than other members of their colony.
  • Wings: Queens often have wings, but several other ant types do, too. Some shed their wings, leaving recognizable stubs.
  • Thorax: Queens have an enlarged thorax (the body segment below the neck).
  • Servants: A queen can also be ID’d by how much other ants pay attention to her. They will be feeding and cleaning her as well as helping to secure eggs as she produces them.

HOW TO FIGHT ANTS INVADING HOMES AND YARDS

Here are a few ways to help your customers fight back against ant invasions:

  • Inside the Home: Keep food properly sealed. Don't leave any food or dishes in the sink. Clean up any crumbs. Once an ant colony discovers a kitchen, they will regularly patrol it for food.
  • Ant Bait: Use TERRO® Liquid Ant Baits or TERRO® Liquid Ant Killer. These borax-based baits offer foraging ants a sweet treat they will take back to the colony and share with others. After a short time, the borax kills the original forager and the other ants that also consumed the bait.
  • Moisture is an Attractant: Eliminate excess moisture, including leaky fixtures in bathrooms, kitchens and basements. Also, try to dry up wet areas around a property, foundation and flowerbeds.
  • Ant Dust: TERRO® also offers Ant Dust, a fine powder that kills ants on contact. Since it is waterproof, Ant Dust can remain effective for up to 8 months. Spread this in a uniform line around a building to create a barrier against these and other insects.
  • Access: Seal entry points where ants could gain access to buildings. Use caulk to close off holes from utility lines, cracks around windows and other gaps that ants can exploit during their search for food.
  • Perimeter treatment: Outdoor Ant Killer Spray from TERRO® is another option. Apply this spray as a perimeter treatment to kill ants before they make it inside a home or business.
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