Ant queens: June 2012 Archives

Hello,

I have a general question about ant colony size:

Having secured their resources, why does an ant community choose expansion in size, structure and function? I guess that at a certain limit of population size things will start to get more difficult with every increase in contrast with a small population where more workers will make life easier and growth is a healthy thing.

Provided that resources are endless will an ant colony continue to grow or is there a target to be achieved? Will ants limit their population if food is scarce for example?

Grateful for your help,
Ibrahim


Hello Ibrahim!

The size of an ant colony has to do both with the ant species and the availability of resources. With that said, it seems to be genetically determined how big an ant colony can get. Many ant colonies have only one egg-laying queen, while others have several and can reach larger colony sizes. Some species only reach colony sizes of a few hundred workers, whereas others can reach colony sizes of over a million, or several millions (for example leaf cutter ants). On the other hand, an entire ant colony of the genus Temnothorax can nest in a single acorn. However, when resources are scarce, an ant colony might not be able to expand to its full potential size.

Hope this helps,
Arista Tischner & the AntAsk Team

While hiking in a remote and Primitive forest in Lassen County of northern California I came across one very large ant.

All of the ants I had seen earlier that day were large and black. They were approximately 1/2 inch long and very stout. I hiked several more miles into a truly primitive and rustic area and found a black ant that was at least one inch long. I thought it must be some sort of queen but it was all alone. Any idea what it could be be. Could it be a carpenter ant? The trail is not far from the Pacific Rim trail which starts in San Diego and maybe this ant hitched a ride. I have looked everywhere and it seems that most ants in north America are under 1/2 inch.

I wish I had taken the poor fellow home. If the ant is unique then I will go back this summer and try and locate him and bring him back for research. If there is one, there is likely more ants.

Your advise is greatly appreciated,

Sincerely,
Matt

*****
Matt,

Thank you for contacting AntBlog.

Unfortunately without a photograph it is difficult to say what ant species you observed, but from your description it is not out of the realm of possibilities that you found a queen of the larger ants (likely carpenter ants from the genus Camponotus) you saw earlier on your walk. Queens are often larger than workers and new founding queens can be exploring the local environment to find a suitable new home to start a colony.

You can see a list and photographs of the ants of California here.

Best regards,
Corrie Moreau & the AntAsk Team