Most of the common ant
species breed in the same way. All ants in the colonies are females
to begin with, but only the Queen and breeding females have the
ability to mate. The male ants, called drones, along with the
breeding females are born with wings, and do nothing throughout
their life except eat. At least, until the time for mating comes.
At this time, all the breeding ants in the colony are carried
outside (save for the queen) where other colonies of similar species
are doing the same. Then, all the winged breeding ants take flight.
Mating occurs in flight and the males die shortly afterward. The
females, those that survive, land and find a suitable place to
begin a colony. There, they chew off their own wings and begin
to lay eggs, which they care for. The first workers to hatch are
weak and smaller than later workers, but they begin to serve the
colony immediately. They enlarge the nest, forage for food and
care for the other eggs. This is how a new colony starts.
by complete metamorphosis, passing through larval and pupal stages
before they become adults. The larval stage is particularly helpless
- for instance it lacks legs entirely - because it does not need
to care for itself. The difference between queens and workers,
and between different castes of workers when they exist, is determined
by feeding in the larval stage. Food is given to the larvae by
a process called trophallaxis in which an ant regurgitates food
previously held in its crop for communal storage. This is also
how adults distribute food amongst themselves. Larvae and pupae
need to be kept at fairly constant temperatures to ensure proper
development, and so are often moved around various brood chambers
within the colony.
Above Images Are From The USDA