A queen ant is an adult, reproducing female ant in an ant colony; generally she will be the mother of all the other ants in that colony. Some female ants do not need to mate to produce offspring, reproducing through asexual parthenogenesis or cloning, and all of those offspring will be female. Ant offspring develop from larvae specially fed in order to become sexually mature among most species. Depending on the species, there can be either a single mother queen, or potentially, hundreds of fertile queens in some species. Queen ants have one of the longest life-spans of any known insect – up to 30 years . A queen of Lasius niger was held in captivity by German Entomologist Hermann Appel for 28¾ years; also a a Pogonomyrmex owyheei has a maximum estimated longevity of 30 years in the field
The term “queen” is not particularly apt, as the queen ant has very little control over the colony as a whole. She has no known authority or decision-making control; instead her sole function is to reproduce. Therefore the queen is best understood as the reproductive element of a colony rather than a leader. Once a colony is established, the worker ants meet the queen’s needs such as giving her food and disposing of her waste. Because ant social structure is very complex and individual ants are relatively simple, an ant colony can be thought of as a single organism, and the individual ants as cells or limbs of the organism, as the individuals can rarely survive on their own.