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Ask The Entomologist about queen ants

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Question:
If i have enough ants in captivity without a queen will they select one? ok so say i dug up a huge ant nest, and the queen is killed in the process (i tried digging one up and searching the whole thing for the queen and she was nowhere to be found.) without the queens perfume wont the other ants become fertile? and that brings up another problem who would fertilize them? or are there emergency male eggs in every nest?

Answer:
There are several species of ants and they all have their own unique colony structure and biology.  Some species of ants have one queen per colony, others have multiple queens in the same colony.  When a group of worker ants (all sterile females) are removed from the colony, they will all eventually die because they are not capable of producing offspring.  If a group of worker ants and some brood (larvae) are separated, or if the queen is removed from the colony, the worker ants will then attempt to raise a new queen (reproductively capable female) from the existing brood.  When this happens, the new queen ant will be unmated and therefore will only produce male ants.  These males can then fertilize the queen and she will be able to produce female worker ants.  A bit incestuous, but it keeps the colony going.