Queen Ants Size, ID Chart, Facts: What Happens When the Queen Ant Dies

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Pest Control | March 28, 2024

Man wonders about queen ants, asking do queen ants have wings, what does a queen ant look like, how big are queen ants, and why do ants kill their queen?

Queen ants are remarkable creatures with uniquely privileged lives, but have you ever wondered what do they look like?

Maybe you’ve asked yourself, how can you find them? Or, what happens when a colony’s royal matriarch dies?

This complete guide explains the life and purpose of Queen ants, and answers tons of strange facts about these remarkable creatures.

Killing Queen Ants: What Happens When the Queen Ant Dies?

If an ant queen meets an untimely demise, it triggers a tragic series of events. Rather than flee or find a ruler replacement, devasted workers usually just keep calm and carry on dutifully trucking in resources until they drop dead from old age.

The colony can soldier on for months without their matriarch. But make no mistake–her loss almost always spells their investable doom.

Minus new heirs to groom, workers repeat existing prompts on autopilot despite the absence of hungry larvae. So what happens when the queen ant dies, but business goes on as usual?

While order temporarily endures, ant kingdoms cannot survive their crushing vacancy for long. And without life-giving eggs, even the largest colonies are destined to slowly perish.

Ants With Wings: What Does a Queen Ant Look Like?

Queens vary between ant species but share some common calling cards. This generally includes a swollen thorax and chunky abdomen, which occupies nearly half of her body’s real estate.

Graphic with texts and an image that shows the characteristics of a queen ant such as swollen thorax. chunky abdomen, wings, and loses if during establishment of a colony.

An overflowing figure bursting with eggs is a clear sign you’re in the presence of royalty. But what does a queen ant look like before it’s settled into its baby-making phase?

Do queen ants have wings, and why would they need them if they spend most of their lives on the ground? Well, newly minted queens enter the world equipped with wings to help them take their maiden voyage during what’s called “nuptial flight.”

This is when they leave the nest to strike out on their own. But once they establish their own colony, queens generally lose their wings.

Of course, a queen’s most conspicuous trait is her comparatively mammoth size. In most cases, queens will tower over their ant subjects.

So if you see one unusually large and lording over her minions, chances are you’ve spotted the queen.

Queen Ant


Queen ant in an oval frame on green background.
  • Diet: Whatever the rest of the ant colony eats.
  • Natural Habitat: Main nest
  • Average Weight: Up to 30 milligrams
  • Average Length: 8 mm (0.31 inches) to 52 mm (2 inches)

Image Credit: Alejandro Santillana10

How Big Are Queen Ants?

While queen ants are generally larger than other ants in the colony, sizes can vary wildly. The average worker ant clocks in at around 1/10th of an inch.

But queens can measure anywhere from a petite 0.3 inches to a colossal 2 inches long, depending on the species. Some of this depends on a species’ characteristics, and some of it depends on the environment.

So, how big are queen ants in nourishing environments? Let’s take the carpenter ant, for example.

These ants produce queens that grow to about two inches in length. Of course, queenly duties demand that plus-sized physique.

With entire colonies depending on them, queens needed ample carriage to house and lay a perpetual supply of heirs to the throne. At the same time, they also leverage their privileged status at the royal dinner table.

With no restrictions on appetite, her Highness enjoys unlimited access to life-giving nutrients. This non-stop feast fuels both her plus-sized proportions and her egg-laying burden.

How Are Queen Ants Born?

With her kingdom firmly established, an ant queen becomes a full-time egg factory, continuously pumping out fertilized eggs to meet colony needs.

She strategically uses stored sperm to determine each offspring’s sex and fate.

Close up image of ant eggs along with the worker ants and queen ant.

(Image: Orangeaurochs9)

Fertilize an egg? A sterile female worker or soldier emerges.

Skimp on sperm and you get a short-lived male drone, built to mate and die. But how are queen ants born in a world of servants and drones?

In essence, by lavishing extra care while nurturing select fertilized eggs and larvae, a potential new queen arises. With that said scientists have long debated the actual mechanism of queen production.

Recently, however, new evidence suggested that certain underlying gene expressions play a big role.1 Ultimately, it seems that genes and environment both play a part in the birth of a queen.

How Does an Ant Become a Queen?

When you think of ants, you probably imagine a hill with countless workers fidgeting about. But beneath the ground, the colony is made up of a strict caste ladder with royalty presiding over all.

These ant socialites enter the world destined for greatness. Before taking up the crown, a princess prepares for her debut at the nuptial flight–an insect debutante ball, if you will.

Here she mingles with male drones, selects a prime mate, and then flies away to start her own colony.2 So, how does an ant become a queen after her nuptial flight?

Close up image of one of the ants with wings.

(Image: patrickkavanagh8)

After the one-time fling, the princess loses her wings and sets up shop. With a lifetime supply of sperm secured from her consort, she’ll never need to mate again.

Now her royal highness can focus on the real work: pushing out eggs engineered to construct her empire.

How Long Do Queen Ants Live?

Queen ants boast an average lifespan of 10-15 years in ideal conditions, and coddled queens have been known to hit a ripe old 30 years of age. That said, some species, such as fire ants, may only live up to seven years.3

How long do queen ants live with their subjects? While female workers can only hope to crack the one-year barrier at best, male drones only live for a few days before checking out.

Why Do Ants Kill Their Queen?

In some ant species, ambitious workers undermine the queen by sneakily laying unfertilized eggs behind her back. These eggs hatch into haploid males, causing conflict over rightful male parentage between the queen and workers.

Sometimes, this conflict can result in the death of a queen. But why do ants kill their queens when it could mean the death of the colony?

In some instances, conflict arises between warring factions who want to crown their own psuedoqueens.4 Whatever the case, when queens die, it usually spells bad news for the colony.

How To Find a Queen Ant

Queen ants can be elusive, and you may have difficulty catching one. But there are some ways you can improve your chances.

First step: locate her royal hideaway. Once you’ve targeted an ant colony, you need to be present during the queen’s nuptial flight.

Available daylight, temperature, and recent rainfall are all keys to determining the right time. You can guess if you want.

But you’re probably better off contacting a local entomologist who can tell you how to find a queen ant during specific times of the year. When the time comes, the queen will emerge from an established nest, pair off rapidly mid-flight, and then flee to start a solo colony.

Of course, there’s always a chance you will run across a queen if you’re able to access the interior of a colony. Maybe you tore away a piece of wood or turned over the soil with a shovel.

Whatever the case, look for ants with wings or oversized ants that tower over workers.

When To Call an Exterminator for Ants

Have you been trying to stop an ant invasion with DIY tactics? It may be time to call in a professional to deal with the situation.

To determine when to call an exterminator for ants, you should be on the lookout for telltale warning signs. This includes trails inside your home or armies amassing inside pantries.

Other red flags warranting an SOS call? Hazardous species like structural sabotaging carpenter ants or pain-packing fire ants.

These high-risk cases require immediate intervention to protect your home and health.

What Are Exterminator Prices for Ants?

On average, ant exterminator prices or ant exterminator cost range from $80 to $500, depending on the company.5 Terminix pricing, for instance, averages around $300 for a one-time treatment.6

It’s advisable to obtain multiple quotes and consider the extent of the ant infestation to make an informed decision that aligns with both your budget and the scope of the problem.

How To Get Rid of Carpenter Ants

While they don’t devour wood directly, carpenter ants burrow elaborate nests within walls and hollow doors, slowly sabotaging infrastructure. Once you pinpoint a nest, you need to fight back by injecting liquid or dust insecticides containing pyrethroids into accessible crevices.

Never spray near outlets or electrical boxes–but dust insecticides generally work well in these areas. For hard-to-reach areas, you may need to drill new ports to inject toxins, while carefully following packaging instructions.

Alternatively, you can use other desiccants such as boric acid or diatomaceous earth. In the end, however, you may be better off contacting exterminator professionals who can tell you how to get rid of carpenter ants or visit your home to find the queen ants and do the job themselves.

Understanding the life of Queen ants can help you prevent them from taking up residence in your home.

Frequently Asked Questions About Queen Ants

Do Queen Ants Have Wings?

Ant queens begin their lives with a set of functional wings. They shed these wings once they’ve established a new colony and entered the egg-laying phase of their lives.

Why Are Ants in My House?

Ants generally enter a home in search of shelter and food. Even a small amount of food can make your home a prime target.

How Many Ants Are in the World?

There are 20 quadrillion ants worldwide.7 That’s 2.5 million for every living human being!

How Many Ant Eggs Are in an Ant Colony?

The number of ant eggs in an ant colony can vary wildly depending on the species. That said, the average queen can lay hundreds to thousands of eggs every day, so a fully developed colony could have hundreds of thousands of eggs at any one time

Read More About Queen Ants


1McVean, A. (2018, August 2). Queen Ants Don’t Have a Divine Right to Their Thrones, Just the Right Genetics. McGill. Retrieved December 9, 2023, from <https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/did-you-know/queen-ants-dont-have-divine-right-their-thrones-just-right-genetics>

2Harvard Forest. (2023). Life Cycle. Harvard Forest. Retrieved December 9, 2023, from <https://harvardforest.fas.harvard.edu/ants/life-cycle>

3Texas A&M Agrilife Extension. (2023). Fire Ant Habitat. Texas A&M Agrilife Extension. Retrieved December 9, 2023, from <https://fireant.tamu.edu/learn/fire-ant-habitat/>

4New York University. (2021, February 18). In Dueling Ants Vying to Become Replacement Queen, Behavioral and Molecular Cues Quickly Determine Who Will Win. New York University. Retrieved December 9, 2023, from <https://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2021/february/dueling-ants.html>

5Home Advisor. (2022, August 10). How Much Does An Ant Exterminator Cost? Home Advisor. Retrieved December 9, 2023, from <https://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/environmental-safety/ant-exterminator/>

6Simms, D. (2023, November 14). What Does Terminix Pest Control Cost? (2023). Today’s Homeowner. Retrieved December 9, 2023, from <https://todayshomeowner.com/pest-control/cost/terminix-cost/>

7The New York Times. (2022, September 22). How Many Ants Are There on Earth? You’re Going to Need More Zeros. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved December 9, 2023, from <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/search/research-news/17168/>

8Ant With Wings Photo by patrickkavanagh. CC BY 2.0 DEED | Attribution 2.0 Generic. Cropped and Resized. Flickr. Retrieved January 12, 2024 from <https://www.flickr.com/photos/patrick_k59/40315968564/>

9Ants and eggs Photo by Orangeaurochs. CC BY 2.0 DEED | Attribution 2.0 Generic. Cropped and Resized. Flickr. Retrieved January 3, 2024 from <https://www.flickr.com/photos/orangeaurochs/34288767123/>

10Queen Ant Species Photo by Alejandro Santillana. CC0 1.0 Deed / CC0 1.0 Universal. Cropped and Resized. Flickr. Retrieved January 3, 2024 from <https://flickr.com/photos/131104726@N02/31204621086>