How Long Do Harvester Ants Live Without a Queen?

The queen ant plays an important role in the life of a colony of harvester ants. She is the heart of the colony and her job is to ensure its survival.

Harvester ants may live for about 4-6 weeks without a queen. This is because the colony can exist on stored food reserves. However, the colony will not be able to reproduce without a queen.

This is because the queen ant is responsible for laying eggs. If there is no queen, the colony will eventually die out.

The life of a harvester ant colony without a queen can be quite different from one with a queen. For example, without a queen, the colony will not be able to forage for food.

This means that the colony will have to rely on stored food reserves, which typically last for about a month.

Additionally, the colony will also be less likely to defend itself from predators and parasites. This is because the queen ant is responsible for leading the colony in these activities.

Harvester Ants and Their Role

These fascinating creatures are found in many parts of the world and come in a variety of colors. The most common species of harvester ant is red, but they can also be reddish-brown or black.

Its sting is quite painful and can cause swelling, redness, and itching. They have large, powerful mandibles that they use to harvest seeds and other food items.

harvester ants gathering food

Harvester ants get their name from their habit of collecting seeds and storing them in their nests. They will also collect other food items such as dead insects and even small vertebrates.

They also help in seed-dispersing and controlling insect populations.

The workers are all sterile females. They care for the eggs and larvae, build and repair the nest, and go out to forage for food. On the other hand, the males are called drones.

They do not have stingers and their only purpose is to mate with the queen. After fulfilling the said purpose, they die.

The Queen Ant and Her Importance to the Harvester Ants Colony

The queen is the only fertile female in the colony. Having wings at first, allows her to fly off and mate. Once done, she settles and loses her wings.

The queen produces eggs that hatch into either workers or drones but she is also capable of producing daughter queens who will leave the nest to start their own colonies.

winged queen ant on a piece of rock

Astonishing as it may seem, the queen also emits pheromones that keep the colony together and help the ants communicate. However, she does not have any power as she is not in command of other ants and her only privilege is getting food from the harvester ants.

Identifying a queen can be as easy as ABC. She’s the biggest ant in the colony, and she has a large abdomen. However, if you’re looking at a group of harvester ants, it can be tricky to tell who is the queen and who isn’t.

An enlarged thorax and head can also be a telltale sign that an ant is a queen. If you’re still not sure, the best way to find out is to watch the colony for a while.

The queen will be the one who is constantly surrounded by other ants.

The lifespan of a harvester ant queen is about 15 years but some studies show that a queen can live for up to 30 years.

Read More: Why Do Ants Touch Each Other When Passing?

Can Harvester Ants Have More than One Queen?

Most colonies are monogynous with only one egg-laying queen but there are actually some with more than one queen. A colony that has more than one queen is called polygene.

Having multiple queens can produce more offspring which will increase the chance of the species surviving. This can also help a colony survive. If one queen dies, the other can take over and keep the colony going.

The downside of having multiple queens is that there could be a struggle for dominance among them. This could lead to the death of some queens, sometimes all, which may result in the destruction of the colony as a whole.

It is rare for harvester ants to have more than one queen in their colony but it is possible.

What Happens to Harvester Ants and Their Colony Without a Queen?

When a colony of harvester ants loses its queen, it will eventually die off. This is because the workers are sterile females and cannot lay eggs.

It won’t put the colony to an immediate halt but the population will slowly die out until there are too few to sustain the colony. Without a queen, the colony won’t last long. The colony can only survive for about 4-6 weeks without her.

Harvester ants do not leave and move on to another colony if their queen dies. They just continue doing their roles until they perish. The survival of the colony is dependent on the queen. Once she dies, they all die eventually.

How Queen Ants Die

The queen is constantly surrounded by other ants and keeping her protected but there are still a few ways a queen may die. May it be by the colony or by humans, killing the queen will definitely cause a colony to perish.

By the Colony

Harvester ants may turn on their queen in the case of multiple queens. They would kill the other and leave the one that produces the most eggs. However, there would be instances where they get carried away and kill all of the queens resulting in their colony’s extinction.

By Humans

If there is a colony within a property, humans may look for ways to exterminate underground nests. Some pour boiling or soapy water and some seek professional help for the best results.

How Harvester Ants Survive Without a Queen

A colony will definitely not survive without a queen. Although a colony of harvester ants can only survive for a short period of time without a queen, there is still a chance for them to thrive again.

The colony may live for many more years if they are able to replace the dead queen and find a new one. The new queen will mate with the drones and start laying eggs. The colony will then continue to grow and flourish.

harvester ant gathering a piece of fruit

Final Thoughts

Ant colonies have an efficient system where each ant is born into a particular role. The key to this efficiency is that it ensures the successful functioning of the system as a whole.

Through careful organization and delegation of responsibilities, colonies are able to thrive and adapt to changing surroundings as needed.

The queen ant may be entirely dependent on her workers and soldiers for survival, but she lays all the eggs that eventually grow into new ants.

She is the most important ant in the colony and all the other ants will not live for long without her. The queen is the key to the survival of the colony.