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Insects and other arthropods

Eliminate the queen to destroy an ant colony

The Queen ants emits different pheromones. Some change the behavior of workers while others inhibit ovarian development, creating sterile workers.
Photo: Insectarium de Montréal (Claude Pilon)
Lasius sp. Québec, Canada.
  • Lasius sp. Québec, Canada.
  • Ants, Québec, Canada.

All species of ants live in fairly complex societies that revolve around the queen. Once the first workers hatch, the queen no longer leaves the nest and spends her life laying eggs. But her role does not end there. She controls the colony by releasing chemical substances called pheromones that dictate the activities and behaviour of the workers. Usually, killing the queen makes it possible to exterminate the colony.

Find the nest to kill the queen

Generally, the founding queen lives in the main nest, where she lays her eggs alongside workers carrying out other tasks.

There are some exceptions:

  • Some colonies, such as pharaoh ant colonies, include secondary nests called satellite nests, where other queens live. These nests may be formed because of overpopulation of the main nest, temperature changes or lack of sufficient food for the mother colony.
  • Some species with only one queen also produce satellite nests. This happens with mature carpenter ant colonies, which have one main nest and up to ten satellite nests. In this species, the main nest, which houses the queen, eggs and first-stage larvae, is always located near a source of water. Satellite nests may contain mature larvae and pupae, along with winged adults. In nature, a colony of carpenter ants may occupy several trees, but only one of them houses the queen and eggs. In Quebec, the most frequent cause of a carpenter ant infestation inside the house is the formation of a satellite nest without a queen.

Once you have located the main nest

  • It must be destroyed, along with all the ants that live in it. Ideally, satellite nests should also be destroyed. Visit the Prevention and control section to learn the best ways to destroy them.
  • If the nest is located in the grass or under pavement, the best way to destroy it is with a gardening tool. Turn the soil over several times, adding soapy water (the soap helps to drown the ants). This operation should be repeated over a period of several days until there is no more activity. Nests can be deep, so be sure you have destroyed every gallery, including the one where the queen lives.
  • When the nests are difficult to access or impossible to locate, using boric acid-based bait is recommended.

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