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How Big Are Queen Ants and How to Identify a Queen Ant

Queen ants are on average 8 mm (0.31 inches) long but can get as big as 52 mm (2 inches). The queen is usually twice the size of a worker, but there are some exceptions.

Queen ants are the biggest in a colony.

They also have wings that they use to fly in search of new habitats when their old one becomes too crowded with other queens and workers.

5 Things You Didn't Know About Ants x
5 Things You Didn't Know About Ants

In this article, we’ll talk more about the reason behind how big queen ants are, how to identify them, and how big they can get, even though it varies from species to species (some queens can be 8 mm long).

How Big Are Queen Ants?

The size of queen ants varies depending on the species. A general rule of thumb is that the queen is between 2 to 4 times bigger than regular worker ants.

A good example of a big queen ant is the Carpenter ant. 

Black queen Carpenter Ant

Carpenter ant queens are typically 13 to 17 mm long and can be dark brown, yellow, red, or black in color, depending on the subspecies.

After mating with the male carpenter ant, the queen loses her wings and searches for a new nesting location for her offspring. To start a new ant colony, the carpenter queen ant favors wet and rotting wood.

Also read: How tall are ants?

Why Are Queen Ants So Big?

There are a few reasons why queen ants can be so big: 

  • Food: One reason is that there is nothing to stop them from eating as much as they want, whereas worker and male ants have set tasks for how many times they’re allowed to eat per day (worker ants only take food every other day). The queen needs nutrients to survive and lay eggs.
  • Reproduction: She needs to carry and lay eggs, which would be a difficult task, if she was as small as worker ants.

The colony’s environment also affects how large or small the queen and her colony is; warm climates produce smaller colonies with longer life spans, while cold environments generally lead to larger colonies and shorter life spans.

How to Identify a Queen Ant

It can be difficult to identify queen ants if you’re not an expert, but a few things make them stand out from other types of ants. 

  • Queens have wings and antennae with 13 segments, while males only have 12 segments in their antennae. 
  • The ovaries on the underside of the abdomen differ depending on how old they are; young queens will still have some white coloration left around her ovaries whereas older queens will just become darker overall when she is pregnant or laying eggs.
  • She’s the biggest of them all (usually)
  • She will (usually) have an army of ants around her, as ants most important job is to protect the queen.
identify-queen-ant

The simplest method to spot a queen ant is to search for one with a bigger thorax, or center part, than the other ants. Because the queen ant is born with wings, which she uses to leave the colony to mate, she will develop a muscular, more complex thorax.

Related: Ant anatomy

A Queen Ant Is Bigger Than Regular Ants

A Queen Ant will be significantly bigger than regular worker ants. This is partly because the queen has to lay all of the eggs herself.

As mentioned, if you ever come across an ant that is twice the size of every other ant in the colony, it will most likely be the queen.

Queen Ants Have Wings (Sometimes)

Because ants mate while flying, both males and young queens have wings. The queens attempt to build a new nest after they’ve mated.

The queens also lose their wings when they’re done with mating.

queen ant front face with wings

Winged ants are swarming ants that want to reproduce and breed. Flying ants can be male or female (the queen). Both are reproductive ants looking to marry and breed the next generation of ants to ensure their colony’s survival.

A Queen Ant Might Have Shed Her Wings

The majority of the queen ant’s eggs hatch into wingless, sterile female ants known as workers. Winged male and female ants are occasionally formed to mate. Males die after mating, and females, in many species, shed their wings and create new colonies.

queen ant without wings

A simple criterion informs us whether or not an ant queen is mated: her wings. Most queens drop their wings after mating, indicating that they have mated. She still retains her wings, indicating that she hasn’t mated or landed on the ground after mating.

A Queen Ant Will Have a Bigger Thorax

Queen ants have a bigger and thicker thorax than worker ants. Because the thorax of a queen ant formerly supported wings, it will be considerably thicker and more muscular than the body of a worker ant. 

The thorax of a queen accounts for more than half of its total body size. This is significantly bigger than a typical ant’s thorax.

The Queen Ant Will Often Have a Large Following

If you notice a bigger ant with a swarm of lesser ants crawling on or around her, she is likely a queen. The queen is often situated in the middle of the ant colony. She’s well-defended by the army of ants and usually tough to reach.

If the queen dies, so will the colony. That’s why ants are so protective of their queen and will sacrifice themselves in order to save her. Whether it’s from external danger or if it’s saving her from starvation.

queen ant laying eggs together with ant workers

The Important Role of a Queen Ant

Queen ants have two major functions. 

They are trained from an early age to start a new colony. After leaving her birth colony and mating, this young queen will seek out a new nesting location and deposit her first batch of eggs. 

Read more about ant eggs here.

ant-larvae-eating

When those larvae have developed and can care for her, the queen shifts her attention to the next stage of her life: becoming an egg-laying machine. In fact, some queens have been known to lay millions of eggs in their lifespan.

If the queen ant dies, there will be no one left to lay eggs, and the colony will die.

It should be noted that, despite her regal title, the queen ant has little real power over her colonies. She does not make choices for the colony or command other ants.

Instead, like every other ant in the colony, she is motivated by instinct and a broad understanding of how she might meet the colony’s requirements. The only royal treatment she receives is that other ants bring her food and keep her clean.

Related: Do ants lay eggs?

About Teodoro Pittman

Teodoro is a nature and animal lover. He specifically focuses on insects, such as ants, bees, and the like. In his free time, he takes care of his own ant farm, where he analyzes their behavior. Teodoro has spent the last 7 years studying the intricate behavior of these small creatures.