Around 14,000 ant species have been documented worldwide, and less than half of these species have been thoroughly studied. Just like termites, the ant community is made up entirely of eusocial species that dwell in colonies. Ant colonies are inhabited by numerous individuals, all of which are offspring of the original founding queen and a dispensable drone that dies shortly after mating. Each individual within an ant colony belongs to a specific social caste that is responsible for carrying out a set of duties in service of the colony. These social castes include the queen, reproductive male drones, sterile female workers, and once colonies reach maturity, queens begin to produce reproductive females known as alates.
Queens live for a long period of time, as long as 30 years for some ant species, and they spend their entire life laying countless eggs on a daily basis. Drones remain within the primary nest for the sole purpose of mating with the queen, and they die shortly after performing this task. Sterile workers exist solely to carry out laborious duties, such as nest construction, foraging, and brood care. Reproductive alates take flight from mature colonies each year in order to initiate a new colony elsewhere. Alates are poor flyers, and the vast majority of swarming alates die before mating with a drone, but the few that do manage to mate usually survive to become the queen of a new colony. While most ant species can only establish new colonies by swarming, several pest species can readily initiate new colonies at any time of year without swarming.
Swarms that occur indoors usually emerge from a colony nest site that is situated within, or in very close proximity to the structure. For example, some carpenter ant pest species, particularly the black carpenter ant, see workers establish satellite nests within the interior structural wood of homes. Alates in the pupil stage of development can be transported to indoor satellite nests where they sometimes emerge within the infested home. In other indoor swarming cases, alates emerge from a colony nest located in a crawl space, against foundation walls, or beneath concrete slabs. Alates found indoors are almost always pests, as indoor ant swarms generally originate from nests that are also located indoors or in some other problematic location.
Have you ever found dead ant alates within your home?