An online resource based on the award-winning nature guide

Queen Ants Mating & Removing Wings

ant removing wings2  095Ants are social insects and live in colonies consisting of one or more queens, female workers and males. In most species the non-sexually mature female ants are wingless; only the males and the queen(s) possess wings. Periodically, often 3-5 days after a heavy rain, the winged ants emerge from the colony in large swarms in order to mate and create more colonies. Swarming behavior is usually synchronized with other nearby colonies, so large numbers (hundreds or thousands) of winged ants suddenly appear. After mating, the males die and the queens shed their wings and use the remaining wing muscles as a source of nutrients during the early stages of colony development. The shedding of wings is not a passive activity. The pictured ant is in the process of removing her fourth and final wing. She held each wing down with one leg while pulling it out with another. She then crawled off, leaving a pile of wings behind.

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9 responses

  1. Margo Nutt

    You capture the most AMAZING images!!!

    September 2, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    • Thank you, Margo. Anyone who spends as much time tromping around as I do would, as well!

      September 2, 2014 at 12:22 pm

  2. Joan C-C Oppenheimer

    wow. you are amazing. always wondered about those swarming winged ants every now and then. read your blog every am and have forwarded your site to all my friends.

    September 2, 2014 at 12:15 pm

  3. Susan Holland

    Wow!what an amazing photograph…AND phenomenon, thank you!

    September 2, 2014 at 1:02 pm

  4. dellwvt

    Sooooo interesting! Again! Thanks! I too have forwarded your sight to my friends. You are a wonderful role model and motivator for all of us sometime-trompers…

    September 2, 2014 at 3:35 pm

  5. Wow, amazing. I have noticed quite a few swarming ants of late, many different species.

    September 2, 2014 at 5:01 pm

  6. Pat

    Very interesting, Mary. I’ve seen those swarms here too. Spooky when they all suddenly come out of their lairs. And what a capture in your photo. wow!

    September 2, 2014 at 5:09 pm

  7. Kathie Fiveash

    What a great photo!! Ominously, the winged beasts came out of a crack in one of our ceiling beams this summer. They never made it out into the leafy world. Instead, they journeyed to the inside our vacuum cleaner.

    September 3, 2014 at 1:27 pm

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