Ant communities are ruled by the queen and usually she is the single individual who begins the nest. Her function in life is to lay thousands of eggs and ensure the survival of the colony. Tall trees, large shrubs or hilltops are the meeting places for queens and males from many different nests, ensuring they can find each other. Once mated, she begins the search for a nest, where the search takes place will vary depending on the species and can range from the top of trees to open soil. The queen bites off her wings once she finds a suitable nest, as the wings won’t be needed any longer.
Once settled in the nest she lays small batch of eggs and remains with the brood while it develops. The initial workers are smaller since the queen could only provide limited amount of food. The colony grows as the workers mature and at this stage the queen reduces her activities to egg laying and the workers assume all other task in the nest. This is one of the most common and widespread patterns of the nest founding, however it may vary from species to species. As the colony reaches maturity, it begins to produce reproductive queens & males, which will ultimately form the next generation.
Once established an individual nest can last for many years. Queens are known to live the longest, up to 23 years in captivity, although they are likely to be more short lived in the wild. The process for replacing the queen varies from species to species. Established colonies would produce or accept new queens if the existing queen dies, whereas some species add additional queens as the colony grows.
Each colony is made up of ants at different stages in their life cycle.