Why do ants die after the queen dies?

A fundamental fact about social Hymenoptera (wasps, ants) that most people, including entomologists, are unaware of: they cannot live without their larvae.

Next time you see an ant’s nest, a bee hive, a hornet’s nest, remember: that structure is essentially a neonatal ICU!

Why? Look at an ant’s body below:

Did you notice the waist? I tell you: the individual’s stomach is located after the thin waist. That means an ant cannot eat solids.

Now, take a look at an ant’s larva (a & b, below):

Notice the waist? There’s none. It means larvae eat solid food!

So, this is what happens: ants are working hard together in that nest mainly to bring up hundreds of babies. They come out to get food and bring it back to the nest, then they chew it up and place it on their larvae. Larvae will swallow and digest the food for them. Especially protein. Larvae secrete nutrient-rich liquids back to the ants, which is their main source of amino acids and fatty acids.

Who lays eggs to produce larvae? Queens*.

What happens when Queens die? No eggs, hence no larvae.

What happens when there are no larvae? Bad nutrition, ultimately no reason for the nest. Ants gradually get disorganised, after few weeks they die.


Notes: the same applies to other social Hymenoptera, such as wasps. Image credits: ant drawing from, ant larvae drawn by Wheeler & Wheeler . [*] - Actually in many ant species, mainly within acidic-producing Formicinae, workers can also lay eggs and thus sustain the colony for long after queen(s) death.

P.S. Wasps and more ‘primitive’ ants can more easily produce a new queen who will be the next mated female in the hierarchy. However if none of them is fertile enough & mated, the nest won’t last long. Bees work differently.

Important technical notice: Queens normally live longer than workers. Nowhere in this answer I meant to imply that larvae can somehow enable workers to live as long as queens! (Some reader took it that way.)

This information was taken from Quora. Click here to view the original post.

Was this information new to you? Which fact seemed the most surprising?

#animals #Nature #Quora


What are your thoughts on this subject?
Sydnie Davis McCutchan
Thank you, did not know any of this
Apr 30, 2021 10:08PM
Evelyn Baker
They all did die.
Oct 1, 2019 5:55PM
Evelyn Baker
Wow, if true I starved to death ants in my ant farms I had as a kid 🤔😣. Never had queen or larvae. Poor ants just digging tunnels and carrying around food they couldn't eat. I really didn't need to find this out!
Oct 1, 2019 5:54PM
Allison Aspden
Really interesting information.
Sep 11, 2019 9:26PM
Do bed bugs follow this same procreation?
Aug 17, 2019 11:17PM
Learned something new today.
Jun 29, 2019 5:00PM
Very imteresting. I did not know about the larvae and colony ants digestive system.
Apr 29, 2019 10:34AM
robert karel
Oh gee!
Mar 27, 2019 4:48PM
Peter Thomas
Learned something today!
Jan 26, 2019 4:56PM
Ed Harriet
This was great.
Jan 3, 2019 10:25PM
Diane Thompson
Very interesting. Our great God of heaven is so amazing how He gets everything to work. We battle sometimes to train our pets. The Lord knows how to "train" everything.
Dec 29, 2018 6:43AM
Very interesting!
Dec 23, 2018 4:32PM
I had always heard that some of the larvae were fed royal jelly and would become the next queen if need be. If the need did not arise, they would grow wings, swarm and form their own colonies. That is why in the Spring we see flying ants. Only the would be queens and their prospective mates grow wings.
Dec 21, 2018 6:25PM
Cheryl McMeekin
Interesting, didn't know this.
Dec 18, 2018 3:35PM
Very interesting.
Dec 15, 2018 7:33PM

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