When I am acting as the "Consult-Ant" and answering questions about ant farms, people are generally interested in finding out more about ant queens.
When an ant colony is ready to branch out, the current queen lays eggs that develop into males or new queens instead of workers. Adult male ants are winged, and have small heads and slender bodies. They can easily be mistaken for wasps.
Newly emerged queens are larger than both males and workers, and have four wings.
When conditions are just right, such as after a summer thundershower, the males and new queens fly from the nest. The whole colony is in a tizzy when this happens. Worker ants gush from the nest entrance and mill around. Winged males and queens climb up on grass stalks, trees, or anything tall in the area.
In many species, the winged queens and males fly to meet with males and queens of the same species of ant from other nests. They enter what is called a mating swarm, a swirling cloud of flying and mating insects.
After mating, the males drop to the ground and soon die. The new queens, the ones that escape being eaten that is, also drop to the ground. The queens quickly pull off their wings by rubbing them between the back of their body and their hind legs, twisting and tugging. Once the wings are off, they quickly hide themselves. Ground-nesting ant queens tunnel into the soil while other types of queens may slip into cracks in the bark of logs or creep under nearby rocks. There a queen makes a safe chamber to start her new colony.
You can tell she's a queen because of the scars on her trunk (middle section) where her wings were.
The queen will lay eggs that develop into tiny worker ants, and a new colony is born.
Have you ever seen swarming ants?
The theme today for Life Photo Meme at Adventures of a Free Range Urban Primate blog is "reproduction."