Life in a Fire Ant Family: Workers

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Fire Ant Workers

A worker ant holding a clutch of eggs. Photo by Charles Barr. Fire ant workers tending the queen. Photo by S.B. Vinson. An array of ants of different sizes compared to a queen (right). Photo by Sanford Porter.

Continuing in their development, within 30 days, larger fire ant workers emerge and the fire ant colony begins to grow. Workers start to emerge daily, and within 6 months, several thousand workers can occupy the colony and a “mound” is readily visible.

As the colony matures, the polymorphic (many sizes) nature of the worker becomes more apparent. The largest workers in the colony can be as much as 10 times the size of the smallest workers.

Monogynous colonies vs. polygynous colonies

At maturity, a monogynous (one queen only) fire ant colony can consist of more than 250,000 fire ants; a polygynous (many queens) fire ant colony can consist of more than 500,000 fire ants.

Worker ants in a multiple queen colony (polygyne colony) behave differently than worker ants in a monogyne colony. The worker ants in a single queen colony will kill ants from other colonies, and about 100 colonies of fire ants can exist together on an acre of land.

In a multiple queen colony, the worker ants are not as competitive or aggressive as worker ants from a single queen colony. When there are multiple queen colonies, about 300 to 400 colonies can exist together on one acre.

When there are multiple queens, the queens may not swarm like they do if they’re from a single queen colony. Instead, some queens with workers and brood can move and start a new colony, leaving behind the established colony.



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