Ants are social insects. Two castes (workers and reproductives - females and males) can be found in most colonies. Worker ants, which are sterile females, are seldom winged. They often are extremely variable in size and appearance within a given species (monomorphic - one form; dimorphic - two forms; polymorphic - many forms). The function of the worker is to construct, repair, and defend the nest; and feed the immature and adult ants of the colony, including the queen.
Reproductive females normally have wings but lose them after mating. Therefore, queens do not have wings. The primary function of the queen is reproduction; however, in some of the more highly specialized ants the queen cares for and feeds the first brood of workers on her salivary secretions. The queen may live for many years and in some species is replaced by a daughter queen. Depending on the species, ants can have one or more queens.
The male is usually winged and resmbles the winged termite
they retains its wings until death. The sole function of the male is to mate with an unfertilized female reproductive. After mating occurs, the male dies. Males are produced in old or very large colonies where there is an abundance of food. After reaching maturity, the male usually doesn't remain in the colony very long.
Ants have an egg, larva, pupa, and adult stage. Eggs are almost microscopic in size and hatch into soft legless larvae. Larvae are fed by workers, usually on predigested, regurgitated food. Most larvae are fed liquids, although some older larvae are able to chew and digest solids. The pupa resembles the adult except that it is soft, uncolored and immobile. In many ant species the pupa is in a cocoon spun by the larva. Six weeks to 2 months are required for development from egg to adult in some species.
Ants establish new colonies by two main methods: flights of winged reproductives and budding. The most common method is for male and female reproductives to leave the nest on mating flights. The mated queen constructs a cavity or cell and rears a brood unaided by workers. The small first brood workers then forage for food. The colony grows in size and numbers as more young are produced.
Budding occurs when one or more queens leave the nest accompanied by workers who aid in establishing and caring for the new colony. Some of the most difficult ant species to control spread colonies by budding. Pharaoh ants
, some kinds of fire ants
, ghost ants
, and Argentine ants
spread colonies by budding.