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Adult Queen
Adult Worker

How to Manage Pests

Key to Identifying Common Household Ants

New colonies can begin with mated flights

A new ant colony usually begins as a new queen flies off from an old colony, mates with a male, finds a suitable site, drops her wings and excavates a nest, and cloisters herself within the nest for several weeks or more until her eggs mature. She lays her eggs within the nest, cares for her young, seldom or never leaving the nest again, relying on workers to groom her and feed the colony after the first generation is reared.

Some colonies are established through budding

For some ant species, such as the Argentine ant and the pharaoh ant, queens mate in the old nest and workers accompany the new queens to new nesting sites. In these cases, queens may not have wings or be able to fly well. Workers can also establish new colonies with or without mature queens through budding. Workers carry immature stages (eggs, larvae, pupae) to another nest site and rear some of the immatures up as reproductive males and females.

Subsequent generations

Many of the most serious ant pests, including Argentine ant, pharaoh ant, and the carpenter ant, have multiple queens within colonies. Others, such as pavement ants, have only one functional queen. After one season or a few years, depending on the ant species, a colony begins to produce reproductives that leave the colony, often in swarms, to form new colonies. Only a few of the thousands of queens produced are successful in founding a colony.

Test yourself

More about ant colonies

Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California
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