How ants mate? — Kayla’s student essay
How Ants Mate?
Ants are one of the most abundant insects on the planet that have complex behaviors and can survive in various environments. Ants have a complex reproduction routine that involves finding, selecting, and fertilizing females to ensure that eggs are laid. The eggs must be able to survive stages of an ant’s life cycle including, larvae, pupae, and adults.
Ant eggs are small and tended to by the worker ants. When in the larvae stage, the ant larvae have no legs and are grub-like in appearance. The pupae stage is very similar to adult ants in appearance, but pupae are usually a light cream color and become darker as they near being an adult.
The adult stage is the ants we normally see outside the colony protecting and foraging for food. Every colony has a queen ant that is almost always bigger than the other ants in a colony. The reproductive life cycle starts with winged males and virgin winged queens leaving an already existing nest and traveling to find a mate from another colony. This helps decrease the likelihood that no inbreeding occurs with relatives.
Once the virgin queen mates, she never returns to the origin colony, instead of mating repeatedly the queen ant instead stores the male’s sperm in a specialized pouch and allows the sperm to fertilize the eggs produced when needed.
After mating the queen ant and male ants lose their wings, the queen will then go in search of a new area to start her own nest. After mating the males usually have a short life in solitude.
The queen can control the gender and function of her offspring since they can either become wingless female workers, or the virgin queens. The unfertilized eggs develop into winged males who do not work within the colony otherwise to fertilize a virgin queen. The queen can produce an increased number of workers by secreting a chemical that prohibits wing growth and ovary development in the female larvae.
Reproductive queen ants are only produced when the colony has reached enough workers for continuous colony growth. In some species, ants will reproduce and form colonies with multiple queens that work together, colonies with multiple queens are known as polygyne. In the colonies with several fertile queens, an entire group of ants along with a queen will break away from the colony to form their own.
This allows colonies to better survive in case of the death of a queen. In single queen colonies, known as monogyne, the death of the queen means the death of the colony because she leaves behind no successors. The colonies with multiple queens may also reproduce in a process called budding. This occurs when one or more fertile queens and a group of workers leave the nest and move to a new site as briefly mentioned above. The roles of the queen and workers remain the same in the budded colony, since the workers are needed to assist in the establishment and care of this new colony.
Author: Kayla Simmons
Arizona State University
Control, O. P. (2021). How Do Ants Reproduce? Retrieved from Okrin : https://www.orkin.com/ants/reproduction