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Life Cycle

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Every ant colony has one or more queens. Even though the worker ants are female, the queen is the only ant that can lay eggs.

Ant Life Cycle

[Newly hatched ants are called callows]

They have highly evolved social systems with three different castes ~ queens, males, and workers. The workers are female, but cannot reproduce. Most of the eggs the queen lays hatch into workers.
Workers are specialized. Some spend their lives tending the eggs and larvae. Other workers forage for food. they leave the nest and when they find food they bring it back to the nest. Some workers defend the nest. 


[Tending larvae] Starting a New Colony

At certain times of the year a queen will lay eggs that hatch into new queens and males. When a queen is born, she has wings and flies out of the nest to mate. The males have wings at this time, too, and the queen and a male mate in the air. The males fall to the ground and die soon after or become food for birds or other insects. The queen will find a good place to burrow in and make a safe nest. Her wings fall off. She never has to mate again.

[Foraging at tuna bait]

Soon she begins to lay eggs. Soon they hatch into larvae, which the queen feeds with her saliva.

 The larvae eventually spin a cocoon; this is the pupa stage. After a few weeks, the new ants emerge. The queen can now retire and just lay eggs. The new worker ants will get food and tend the new larvae and pupae. A new ant colony has begun!

Eventually that queen will lay eggs that will develop into new queens and males. They will fly off and start new colonies.

[Carpenter ant queen][Carpenter ant queen with wing scars]

[Myrmica lobifrons male] [Myrmica lobifrons male]