How to Identify the Roles of Ants in their Colonies

Identifying ant roles will help you determine whether the nest is just starting or the ant population is no longer controllable. Learning how to identify how new workers look from those that already matured can help you determine if the ant nest is new or has been built for quite some time. It will give you a hint on the level of infestation and potentially get the right pest control products or do appropriate pest control efforts to manage the infestation.

Though the colours and sizes vary in every species of ants, they all go through almost the same life cycle. As a queen starts building her nest, the first batch of eggs will turn into new workers. These new workers are not as big as matured workers are simply because there is still a lack of food source in the nest. They will eventually become bigger as ants continue leaving the nest and start foraging for food.

Ant Roles in the Colony

The life of ants starts with the eggs. Once it reaches the larval stage, they will look like small worms and shed their skin several times. Larvae are similar to eating machines. They eat constantly to grow rapidly and solely rely on matured worker ants for their food. As soon as they are big enough, they will form a cocoon around themselves and become pupas as they undergo metamorphosis. After the pupal stage, they will then emerge as adults.

Adult Ants

Reaching their adult stage, ants will already develop their six legs. Their exoskeleton has also hardened at this point. Their body has three regions which are comprised of their head, thorax, and abdomen.

Of course, the head has the mouthparts and the essential sensory organs, their two antennae. The antennae help the ants’ senses of touch and smell. The sense of smell leads other ants to the food source, recognize enemies and friends, and establish their territorial boundaries.

Though the colours of ants vary on what species they belong, you will commonly see them in red, brown, or black.


Every ant colony is divided into groups or castes: workers, males, and queens. All fertilized eggs grow as females while the unfertilized eggs grow as males. Queens and male ants are the only ones with wings while workers don’t.

Worker Ants

The size of workers ants depends mainly on their role in the nest. There are those that dig tunnels, some are foraging for foods, and others take care of eggs in the nest, while the worker ants with the biggest sizes are defending the colony. The lifespan also varies depending on their species. While pharaoh ants can live for about 10 weeks maximum, carpenter ants, on the other hand, can stay alive for years.

Queen Ants

Of all the ants in the caste system, queen ants are the biggest ones and live longer. Pharaoh ant queens can live to up to 3 years while carpenter ant queens can live for up to 20 years. There are species that only have one queen for every colony while there are also those with several queens in one colony.

It is less likely to find pregnant ants roaming around as the queens are the only ones to lay eggs to make more ants. They are protected by the entire colony and spends their life doing this particular job.

You can actually encounter queen ants during their nuptial flight. This happens whenever the weather condition is hot or humid right after the rain. It is when mature males and unmated queens mate on the air. While males die right after this, queens will start looking for a nesting site where they can start a colony. Aside from the mating act, most ants don’t fly except for certain species that swarm out of their nests at certain periods.


Though these are not found in most ant colonies, these ants have long heads and have visible mandibles. You can find these in polymorphic ant species’ colonies. Despite the name soldier, these ants are sterile females utilized mainly for their larger built. These ants assist worker ants in bringing in larger food or objects into the colony.


Unfertilized eggs hatch into male ants and are also called as drones. Unlike other ants building and working on making the colony bigger, these ants are not working inside the colony. They mainly focus on reproduction. Whenever a nuptial flight occurs, drone ants are the ones mating with a princess ant.

After the flight, they will die shortly after. These ants are rarely seen outside. They look a lot like a wasp because of the wings attached to their bodies.

Importance of Identifying Ant Roles in Choosing the Right Pest Control Action

Getting an idea of what certain roles ants have in the colony will help you understand how an infestation is doing. Seeing more worker ants in your surrounding means that a nest is getting bigger and there are more ants waiting to mature and reach adulthood.

This is the main reason why you should act immediately and look for the nest if ants are starting to become a nuisance in your home. It is either you use pest control products or ask an expert to do the job for you.