Virgin Flight

You may have seen ants crawling around with a pair of wings on their back. These are actually alates — virgin queens and males ready to mate. Around late-spring, alates will wait outside of the nest, waiting for the correct time to take flight. No one knows why this happens but the pattern is after heavy rainfall, as the ground is much softer and easier to dig for queens looking for a place to make their colony. When the time is right, the alates will fly, finding alates of other colonies and participating in a nuptial flight, where queens will be fertilized by 1 or more males. With this sperm, the queens will be able to lay their worker eggs and, for some queens, the sperm lasts a life-time. In some cases, the queen will mate once every few months, as in the case of the driver ant.

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