OCT 21, 2019 3:37 PM PDT

How Desert Ant Queens Establish a Colony

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

When a founding desert ant queen is ready to establish her own colony, the harsh environment compels her to do something that no other queen would ever dare do: share her territory with other queens.

While sharing territory might seem counter-productive for a queen, these desert ants have adapted to use it to their advantage. Having several queen ants laying eggs all at the same time ensures that the colony grows big and strong in a short period of time. After the eggs hatch, the queens will have everything they need, including ants that work on the colony, others that gather food, and even some that pamper the royalty.

After a queen lays a stack of eggs, she coats each one with her antibiotic saliva, preventing the eggs from being overrun by a destructive fungus. In time, the eggs hatch into larvae, and later pupate to become full-blown worker ants.

All worker ants are born female, however unlike the queen, they’re sterile and unable to reproduce. Given the circumstances, each worker ant has just one role in life: to serve the queen, whatever her needs might be. Some ants will go searching for food, while some work on the colony itself. A smaller subset of worker ants stays behind to pamper the queen and to help her with the egg-laying process.

Had it not been for sharing their territories early on, each desert ant queen wouldn’t have such a large colony to be proud of afterward.

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
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