What Does A Queen Ant Look Like?

Do I have an ant queen? What does an ant queen look like?

Because I frequently am asked these questions by beginning ant enthusiasts, let’s go over what you need to look for to tell if the ant you have seen or captured is a queen.

(Note:  this guide is for ants with a morphologically distinct queen. Not all ant species have distinct queens.)

If you encounter an ant swarm like this one, you can probably spot the virgin queens right away. They are the big ones with the wings.

Remember the part about the wings. Only males and virgin queens have wings, but even after they lose their wings the queens will have signs they once had them.

This is a queen. I can tell because her midsection, or trunk, edit:  now called mesosoma, is a wide as her head. It is large because it contains all the big muscles she needs for flight. This queen has been on her mating flight and has lost her wings.

From the front view, you can see her trunk mesosoma is as wide as her head and that there are scars on the sides where the wings were.

Here’s a top view. See how wide she is? A worker ant would be narrower.

This is a queen fire ant without wings.

See how large her trunk mesosoma is?

Here comes the quiz. Is the following ant a queen?

It has wings and a huge trunk mesosoma. Is it a queen?

I can tell by the small size of the head that it is a male. Males also fly, so they also have big flight muscles.

As you become more experienced, will become fairly easy to tell whether any ant you encounter is a queen.

Using what you have learned, is this a queen?

12 Replies to “What Does A Queen Ant Look Like?”

  1. A Camponotus pennsylvanicus queen, perhaps? (It might have been a little more difficult with a different title for the pic :))
    If unsure about whether it’s a queen or not, it’s helpful to look around – as ants do tend to release quite some queens at a given time, there is some chance to see another queen, perhaps with wings so as to relieve us from doubt.
    If that doesn’t get us anywhere, then it might pay to watch her do whatever she does. Most queens will look for a dark space, or start burrowing, or gnawing, to make such a perfect enclosure (like your Camponotus queen) and forget about the world, building a nation.

    And do feel free to delete, if too much a spoiler, or perhaps I just fell for a trap?! 😉

  2. Argh! If only I had seen this post earlier today. My son and I saw a big ant on the beach that we thought might be a queen, but it didn’t have wings. I wish I noted the torso size! I’m guessing the one above maybe isn’t one? The torso looks a bit smaller than the head.

  3. At first I was a little startled too, but then I noticed what I believe to be the groves where the wings once were, so I at least will put my money on that it is a queen indeed.
    But then again I am only a simple bear…

  4. And a little technical terminology, myrmecologists now rather uniformly refer to the “trunk” or “torso” as the mesosoma (Greek for mid-body). There is a nother techinical term i use in some oldeer literature, but I won’t mention it because I would like it to be dis-used.

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