MadSci Network: Zoology

Re: Could an ant colony survive without the ant queen?

Date: Fri Nov 10 18:16:05 2000
Posted By: David Richman, Staff, Entomology
Area of science: Zoology
ID: 973365454.Zo

As far as I can determine most ant colonies held in captivity can survive 
for only a short time without a queen, although they will care for the 
brood and make tunnels. They generally die when the last of the worker 
ants die.  In at least some cases one of the early larvae present could be 
made into a new queen. The larvae would have to be fed food high in 
protein. However, after about 10 days (in the genus Myrmica at least) the 
larva is completely determined as either a new queen or a worker. Other 
factors include winter chilling and egg size.   Of course if a queen is 
present she also influences the production (or lack of production) of new 
queens. Thus ant queens are not produced so much genetically (although 
they do have to come from diploid eggs- that is with two sets of 
chromosomes- and thus cannot be made from unfertilized haploid eggs which 
produce only males), but mainly by diet and other environmental factors.


Hölldobler, B., and E. O. Wilson.  1990. The Ants. Harvard University 
Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Wilson, E. O. 1971. Insect Societies. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 

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