Although ants, like wasps and honeybees, belong to Hymenoptera, people usually do not think of ants as flying insects. Ant mating is crowded, unlike bees flying in the air.
The sociality of ants divides them into several levels, including workers, soldiers, males and queens. Workers and soldiers belong to flightless females whose duty is to look after their territory. Males produce sperm, and the only purpose of these winged males is to reproduce. The reproductive females can fly before mating, and become queens after mating, with their wings falling off, and then establish a new territory (or join a multi-queen territory).
Walter Tschinkel, an ant expert at Florida State University, explains that there are two mating strategies in 2,000 species of ants worldwide. When males gather, males concentrate on attractive places, such as hilltops and tall trees, and the reproductive females will soon join in.
Ant mating takes place in the air, and males insert their pencil-like stems into the female reproductive system and expel sperm. The sperm will reach the female fertilizer sac or sperm storage organ, and the female will be responsible for reproduction with these sperm for the rest of her life.
In some ants, such as fire ants, females only mate with a male before they “marry” and open up new colonies. Harvester ants and other species of ants have previously mated with five to 15 males.
In unusual female calls, pregnant females appear on the surface of their territory, attracting males to mate by releasing pheromones.
But in either case, males usually die shortly after mating.