What happens when a queen ant dies?

Written by ryn gargulinski
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What happens when a queen ant dies?
Ants need their queen (ants & ahises image by Marek Kosmal from Fotolia.com)

Ant colonies may have thousands of swarming little insects, but one of them matters the most. She is the queen. When the colony loses its queen, whether through old age, rebellion, human interaction or tragic natural circumstances, the colony is pretty much doomed. There are a few caveats, however, as killing off a queen may not be as simple as it seems.

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Function

The queen ant has but one function in the colony: to reproduce. She lays dozens of eggs which then hatch into dozens of new workers. When the queen ant dies, the colony dies, says the Fire Ants website. The death of the colony will not be immediate, but they will slowly die off over time as no new members are added.

Identification

Queen ants are the largest in the colony, about double the size of the smallest minor workers and significantly larger than the major workers, according to the University of Minnesota Extension website. She lacks wings and a prominent mandible, as other colony members will have. Her third segment is notably longer and fatter than her second segment, all the better with which to lay her dozens of eggs.

Number

Several colonies hail more than one queen. A single queen is the norm for some colonies, like those of the carpenter ant, but she can live up to 25 years, the Terro website said. Other types of ants are infested with queens. An Argentine ant colony may have hundreds of queens while a Pharoah ant colony may have thousands, according to the site.

Death by Workers

In some colonies, ants will take care of any excess queens on their own, according to the Live Science website. Queens will lay their eggs, producing thousands of young worker ants. The worker ants will often turn on the queens, with the goal of killing all but one of them that will reign supreme. As is the case with some revolutions, however, the workers get carried away and end up killing all the queens and thus killing off their own colony.

Death by Humans

If it is your aim to kill the queen ant to rid your property of an ant colony, you have several different methods from which to choose, according to the Fire Ants website. The tactics target the entire colony with the hopes the queen will go down with all other ants that perish. Methods include drowning the colony with a bucket of boiling or soapy water, killing them off with a mixture of a half-bar lye soap melted in 5 gallons of water or using diatomaceous earth or a commercial ant killer.

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