Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) are an easily
recognized group of social insects. The workers
are wingless, all possess elbowed antennae and all
have a petiole (narrow constriction) of one or two
segments between the thorax and the abdomen.
Most ant colonies are started by a single, insemi-
nated female or queen. From this single individual
colonies can grow to contain anywhere from several
hundred to several thousand individuals.
Ants normally have three distinct castes: workers,
queens, and males. Males are intermediate in size
between queens and workers and can be recognized
by ocelli (simple “eyes”) on top of the head, wings,
protruding genitalia, and large eyes. The sole func-
tion of the male is to mate with the queen.
The queen is the largest member of the colony. She
has wings, but loses them soon after mating. How-
ever, scars remain where the wings were attached.
Queens usually have ocelli, in addition to large
eyes, and a large abdomen for egg production.
The worker, the smallest member of the colony,
lacks ocelli (usually) and is never winged. Workers
may be of one size (monomorphic) or may vary
considerably in size (polymorphic). Large workers
are usually called soldiers or majors, very small
workers are minors.
Ants pass through several distinct developmental
stages in the colony: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
The egg is very small and varies in shape accord-
Extension Bulletin 1382
ing to the species. The larva also varies in size and
shape, but is usually white and is always legless.
The pupal stage looks like the adult but is soft,
white, and motionless. Many are enclosed in a co-
coon of a brownish or whitish papery material.
Ants produce reproductive forms usually at one
time of the year (spring or fall, depending on spe-
cies and colony disposition). Colony activity at
the time of reproductive swarming is high, with
winged males and queens and workers in a very
active state. The queen and males fly from the
colony and mate. Shortly after mating, the male