There is no such thing as the king ant in the ant kingdom as there is no fundamental need for a king in the first place. The queen ant is simply a decorative title given to a female ant who is solely responsible for laying millions of eggs and for establishing a thriving ant colony.
Even if the terms “king and the queen” seem quite relatable to us, the definition of being the queen ant is different from what we commonly perceive it to be.
In this post we are going to take a deeper look at the following topics:
- An in-depth look at the fundamental meanings of the queen and the king ant.
- A quick look at the reproductive process of the ants which will allow us to get to the bottom of why they don’t have any king ants.
- Top 3 reasons why evolution have eliminated the need for king ants
So let’s dive right in.
Does the Queen Ant have a King?
In the ant hierarchy system, there is no such thing as the king ant. The queen ant is regarded as the queen ant, not because she orders and dominates everyone around but because of the fact that she is the mother of all ants in the ant colony!
Ants do not need governance and hence unlike the human society, the role of the queen here is only limited in the expansion of its colony and nothing else.
The Reproductive Process: No King Necessary
The virgin queens or princesses after maturing and growing up in their mother’s colony leave the colony on one fine day along with loads of other male ants to engage in a mating ritual known as the nuptial flight. Often it engages in nuptial flight with male ants of other colonies as well.
This generally happens in the warmer summer months when there is no rain, the temperature is not too chilly and the wind is not too strong.
The future queen ant mates only once in her life and stores the sperm of the male ants for future use.
The male ants die very shortly right after the mating process as their purpose in this world has been served. The queen ant then goes on shedding its wings and starts a new colony on its own.
It starts by laying loads of eggs that mature into the worker ants who become the pillar of the colony.
Slowly as the colony reaches stability and undergoes expansion both in terms of strength and area, the queen ants focus on laying eggs that will grow up to be the male ants and the future queen ants. When these ants mature they leave the colony and the cycle continues.
3 Reasons King Ants Don’t Exist
i) There is no Reason for the King to Exist in the Social Hierarchy.
In human society, the concepts of kings and queens serve as a symbol of a leader who will guide and govern their fellow people. They will try in ensuring the safety of their people as best as they can and will try to make sure that everyone can live their best life possible.
However, in the ant society, the social hierarchies make sure that the ants belonging to their respective categories fulfill their duty without any trouble. It’s like they keep on performing their duties exactly the way they were meant to be.
They have dedicated categories of ants for specific tasks and all of them go onto performing their duty mostly without fail. Hence from a governance point of view, there is basically no need for the king or the queen here.
ii) There is no need for the King for Reproduction
In the ant world, the purpose of the male ants is only to mate with the virgin queens. Once that happens they die shortly. The future queen uses that reserve of sperm for selectively laying millions of eggs throughout her life. So once the virgin queen becomes a real queen i.e. it starts laying eggs, it literally doesn’t come in any contact with a male ant in her life.
Hence the queen ant has no need of the king ant at any point in her life. The only need she had for the male ants was served.
iii) There is no Rule that a King must exist Whenever a Queen Exists in the Animal World
The queen ant is denoted as the queen ant just to signify its importance in the expansion and establishment of the colony. Hence it is a decorative title given to the most important female ant of the colony to make it stand out from the rest.
So there is absolutely no reason for the king to exist at least from nature’s perspective.
Hypothetically if the queen ant didn’t have the ability to store the sperm and to use the sperm to lay eggs throughout her life, then the relevance of the king ant would have been huge. This is what is seen in the case of the termites where the queen and the king indulge in lifelong breeding. Whenever the colony requires expansion, the king and the queen mate.
However, in the ant colony, there is no need for a lifelong breeding or mating system as the queen can sufficiently store the sperm after mating just once and use that reserve of sperm as per her convenience to expand the colony.
Nature has shaped them in such a way that totally erases the need of having a king ant.
The definition of a queen is quite different for the ants than it is for us.
For them, the queen ant is that ant of the colony which is structurally more evolved than the rest and who is highly fertile in nature. In a single ant colony, the queen ant has only got the power to lay millions of eggs continuously for years to come.
This is the reason why it occupies a special position in the ant hierarchy and hence it is given the highly respected title of the “queen”. The worker ants and all other ants treat the queen in a special way and make sure all of her needs are taken care of.
However, the queen ant has no role whatsoever in the governing of the whole colony. It doesn’t engage in the day-to-day activities of the colony and only focuses on the frequency of laying the eggs as per the requirement of the nest.
Likewise, the title of the king ant has got no importance in the ant world because there is no requirement for it whatsoever as the male ants are just required to mate once with the queen ant and then its job is done in this world.