How Do Ants Choose a New Queen?
Choosing a new queen is not as easy as it might sound. Queens are often bigger than other members of the colony. They often have wings, which make them easy targets for predators. The queen ant also needs extra muscle to power their wings.
After mating, the queen searches for a good place to build a new nest. Usually, the nest will be in the ground, but not very deep.
After mating, the queen will have a bloated abdomen. This is a condition known as physogastrism. The queen will also have a balloon-like gaster. The queen will need extra bulk to lay eggs. The queen will use the sperm in the abdomen to fertilize the eggs.
The queen will then lay the first set of eggs. After the larvae mature, the queen will become an egg-laying machine. Depending on the species, the queen will lay millions of eggs in her lifetime.
The number of queens in a colony is dependent on a number of factors. Some species have only one queen while other species have thousands. The number of queens in a colony can also affect the genetic structure of the population.
A recent study published in the journal Science shows how ants choose a new queen. Tanja Schwander of Simon Fraser University is the lead author of the study.
In their study, researchers observed queens from six newly-founded nests. They found that 65 percent of the nests contained a single queen. The other five nests had two queens. The queens in these nests were surrounded by a mass of soldier ants. These ants defended the queen with their lives.