New Article About Egg Laying by Ant Queens

You might want to check out the Apr. 11 issue of the open access journal PLoS ONE. Scientist Juergen Heinze at the University of Regensburg in Germany found that Cardiocondyla obscurior ant queens lay more eggs as they get older (even with the same number of workers) and that this high egg-laying rate does not shorten the queens’ life spans, as would have been expected based on many other organisms.

Cardiocondyla obscurior photograph by April Nobile / © / CC-BY-SA-3.0, downloaded from Wikimedia

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?

Where to Find Queen Ants

Many people want to know where they can find a queen ant.

ants with alates

Here in Phoenix the ant nests are filled with alates (winged ants) ready to swarm in late July and August.

ants with alates2

In the day or so after a strong thundershower, called “monsoons” here, it is easy to find queens running across the ground looking for spots to nest.

This week I found a great place to hunt – tennis courts. As the bright overhead lights came on in the evening after a big storm the night before, the queens ants themselves started to rain down. I collected queens of three different species in ten minutes. I wasn’t too interested in the rover ant queens, but noticed they were mating right there on the tennis court. It was amazing.

Unfortunately my tennis buddies were not as thrilled as I was, so I didn’t get a chance to observe as much as I would have liked. You can guess where I’ll hanging out be next time it rains.

Ever found queen ants attracted to the big lights at sporting events?