Depending on the species, ants can reproduce either sexually or asexually. This means that ants may produce offspring with or without mating.
In this article, we’ll learn more as we discuss sexual and asexual reproduction in ants. Before that though, a brief 101 on ant reproduction. Specifically, we’ll learn about reproductive division of labor and which ants can reproduce.
Reproductive Division of Labor
Reproductive division of labor is a feature found in eusocial insects like ants. It is a key characteristic that has allowed ants to become one of the most successful animals in the world. See this article to learn more about ants as eusocial animals.
Ants have 2 female castes: queens and workers. Queens specializes in reproduction. In most ant species, the queens bear all the reproductive burden. Their sole purpose is to generate thousands of eggs to grow the colony.
Workers, on the other hand, are generally sterile. Instead of giving birth to their own young, they focus on helping the queen. They do everything from nest maintenance and brood care.
Can Worker Ants Reproduce?
While rare, there are some worker ants that can reproduce. Gamergate ants, for example, are workers that can sexually reproduce. They have functioning spermathecae and can produce fertilized eggs. [1, 2]
In some species, gamergate ants reproduce alongside queens. Sometimes they even take all reproductive responsibility in queenless colonies.
Sexual Reproduction In Ants
Most ants reproduce sexually. This means that they mate and produce offspring through the combination of the sperm and the egg. 
They do this through 2 methods: swarming and budding.
Swarming is a process in which reproductive ants leave their nest to mate. It’s a common method found in many ant species which seek to disperse and establish new colonies.
At certain times of the year, reproductive ants participate in the nuptial flight. They fly out and swarm with ants from other colonies to mate. 
There, queens mate with drones until they fill up their spermatheca. This spermatheca is a specialized pouch where queens store sperm. There they maintain the sperm until they use it for fertilization.
After mating, both males and queens lose their wings. The males, having fulfilled their purpose, die soon after. The queens, on the other hand, seek refuge and seal themselves off to safety.
Once they’re secure, they use the sperm to lay fertilized eggs. These eggs will eventually hatch into workers which marks the start of a new colony. They then continue laying eggs to expand their colonies. When they’re ready to expand, they then produce queens and males to restart the cycle.
Budding is a process that occurs in colonies with more than one reproductive queen. It’s a reproductive strategy that doesn’t include a dispersal flight. Instead, ants simply mate within or near their nests.
They then establish colonies through fragmentation or budding. This occurs when a group of workers and their individual queens move to new nests and create new colonies.
These colonies may become hostile or retain firm ties with their maternal colony. The latter allows for the cooperative exchange of brood, workers, and reproductives.
Asexual Reproduction in Ants
Some ant species can reproduce asexually through parthenogenesis. This method of reproduction allows for the development of embryos without fertilization. Essentially, parthenogenesis allows ants to clone themselves. 
One example is the ant species Cataglyphis cursor. Both queens and workers of this species can produce new queens through parthenogenesis. They are also one of the ant rare species that can reproduce sexually and asexually.
Other asexual ants include the following:
- Mycocepurus smithii
- Ooceraea biroi
- Wasmannia auropunctata
- Platythyrea punctata
How Many Eggs Do Ants Lay Per Day?
Healthy queen ants can lay hundreds of eggs daily. For example, fire ant queens that are properly fed are capable of laying around 800 eggs per day. 
Gamergates, on the other hand, are often less capable. They can typically only produce half of what queens can do daily. This is why their colonies tend to be smaller.
Can an Ant Colony Have Multiple Queens?
Yes, an ant colony can have multiple queens. These colonies are called polygynous colonies. They can have 2 to millions of egg-laying queens. Polygynous ants include species from the Ponerinae, Myrmeciinae, Myrmicinae, Dolichoderinae, and Formicinae genera. 
Check this article to learn more about how many queens are in an ant colony.
Summary: How Do Ants Reproduce?
To summarize, ants can reproduce either asexually or sexually. Asexual ants reproduce through parthenogenesis, wherein they clone themselves. Ants that reproduce sexually, on the other hand, reproduce by swarming or budding.