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How Long Do Ants Live Without a Queen?

In this article, we will discuss how long ants live without a queen. 

Ants are social insects that live in colonies and need a queen to reproduce. If the colony has no queen present for an extended time, it can die out or become vulnerable to attack from other species. 

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

Some species find a new female to take over the job as queen. This process may take days or weeks.

Most species don’t have this luxury though, which means they’ll eventually be wiped out.

Learn more about life in the queenless ant.

How Long Do Ants Live After Their Queen Dies?

As long as the queen ant is alive, so are her subjects. If the queen dies, most ant colonies will only survive 3-4 months. If they’re extremely good at keeping up with their tasks, they can live another 12 months after the death of the queen. 

Also read: What happens when a queen ant dies?

The queen ant is responsible for reproduction. When a new queen hatches, she begins creating a nest to lay fertilized eggs that will hatch into worker ants. Some of those eggs will be fertilized and hatch into queens as well. 

queen ant laying eggs together with ant workers

All the worker ants are sterile females who make up a colony’s workforce, from caring for their young to protect them from intruders. This is why the ants will die. They can’t reproduce on their own.

How Do Ants Choose Another Queen?

There are two times in the ant colony life span, where a new queen will be introduced.

The first one is when the colony has grown large enough to expand into new territory. Here, the queen ant will decide, that it’s time to give birth to new queens. These will, at some point, take flight and start their own colonies.

Another scenario is when the queen dies. Most ant colonies won’t accept a new queen, but a few colonies will. Here, a new queen is selected through battle. The female worker ants will fight for the spot as queen. The winner will undergo a transformation, turning into a form of queen.

Can a Worker Ant Become a Queen?

No, they usually can’t. This is only seen in a very few species, where the ants can shrink and regrow their brain, turning them into queen-like ants. Generally, queen ants are born, not made.

If an ant is born with genetic traits that allow it to grow larger or have specific characteristics like queens do, they can reproduce. Workers cannot reproduce because their reproductive organs never fully develop while living in the nest. 

fire ant solo

Identifying the Queen Ant

The queen ant stands out in multiple ways, which makes her “easy” to spot. Now, it’s difficult to find her, since she’ll usually stay deep inside her nest at all times.

If you’re looking for the queen, you’ll have to look out for:

  • An ant that’s bigger than the rest
  • An ant with wings or the remains of wings (queens lose their wings after mating)
  • An ant with a larger gaster (back part of their body)

Read more: Size of the queen ant and how to identify her

queen ant front face with wings

Colony Survival Without a Queen

Ants are very resilient creatures. They can survive without many things, but how long do ants live without a queen?

The answer is they don’t always survive for too long.

While an ant colony may not die out immediately upon losing its queen, it soon will if the worker ants cannot figure out how to survive without the queen. Eventually, they will die though, since most ant species don’t allow another ant to take the role of queen.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a Worker Ant Become a Queen?

The answer is yes. An ant can become a queen, but this is very rare. Queens are female members of an established colony that lay eggs and can reproduce. However, if there are no other existing queens in the colony, workers of a very few species will develop ovaries, making them capable of laying eggs.

Are Queen Ants Born or Made?

Queen ants are born as queens. This means they are reproductively mature. Male ants are also able to reproduce, but they will never run a colony, as they die after mating with a queen.

Can a Queen Ant Survive Alone?

Usually, the queen ant won’t survive alone. She needs her workers to gather food for her, to keep her safe and clean. If there are no workers, there’s no nest, no colony, and no queen. She will eventually die. In some cases, the queen will get to lay eggs before she dies. If these eggs hatch quickly enough, she’ll survive, as the ants can take care of her.

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.