Nesting Biology

AntWiki: The Ants --- Online

Many species of ants have a single queen and a single nest. In this case the colony and their nest is more of less the same thing. Yet many ants have more complicated life histories. A species that has colonies with multiple queens and nests extended across several nests mounds requires more precise delineations of what is a nest and what is a colony.

Debout et. al. (2007) reviewed what is known about polydomy and this paper provides a nice entry into a body of ideas that are useful when considering nesting biology. Many of the definitions and ideas presented below are based on their publication.

Why is it important to understand the structure of a nest? There are many questions about relatedness and social structure that require us to clearly define the boundaries of a colony. A small colony inhabiting a single nest chamber offers a straightforward delineation. Many species are not so simple and if we are interested in studying evolutionary phenomenon, i.e, genetic relatedness, allocation decisions, potential queen-worker conflicts of interest, etc., it is important that we know how different nests may be connected, interact with other nests, produce dispersing or non-dispering reproductives, and so on.


Papers with nesting biology information that have been examined/edits added to antwiki....

  • Goryunov, D.N. 2015. Nest building in Formica exsecta ants (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). Zoologichesky Zhurnal 94: 1132-1137 (doi:10.1134/S0013873815080035).
  • Rybnikova, I.A. & Kuznetsov, A.V. 2015. Complexes of Formica s. str. nests in the Darwin Nature Reserve and causes of their degradation. Entomological Review 95: 947-952 (doi:10.1134/s0013873815080023).

and information from this added here:


The following species have detailed nesting information.


  • Debout, G., B. Schatz, M. Elias, and D. Mckey. 2007. Polydomy in ants: what we know, what we think we know, and what remains to be done. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 90:319-348 (doi:10.1111/j.1095-8312.2007.00728.x).
  • Tschinkel, W. R. 2014. Nest Relocation and Excavation in the Florida Harvester Ant, Pogonomyrmex badius. PLoS ONE. 9:e112981. 18pp. (doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0112981).