The number of ants in a colony can vary widely depending on species and other factors. Small colonies can have only hundreds of individuals. Larger ones, on the other hand, can surpass millions. In fact, some species can form supercolonies with billions of ants.
The number of ants in a colony can vary widely depending on species and other factors.
In this article, we’ll learn more about how many ants are in a colony as we discuss the following:
- Factors that affect colony size
- Largest ant colony in the world
We’ll also look into ant colony structure and if all ants live in colonies.
Factors that Affect Colony Size
The size of an ant colony is determined by the following factors:
Age can be a significant factor in determining the size of an ant colony. As a colony grows older, it typically becomes larger.
Newly established colonies begin with a single queen and a small number of workers. As the queen produces more offspring, the colony will continue to grow in size.
Colony size can also vary depending on the time of year and environmental conditions.
For example, ants in temperate regions peak during the warmer months. During this time, colonies experience an increase in population size as queens reproduce.
In contrast, ants become less active in the cold season. Their population tends to decrease as they die off or enter a state of dormancy. In these times, they prioritize survival over colony growth.
Availability of Resources
The availability of resources can directly impact the size and success of an ant colony. A colony will continue to grow as long as there are enough resources to support it. 
Colonies with access to abundant resources will continue to grow and expand. On the other hand, colonies constrained by limited resources may have difficulties surviving.
Different ant species have different colony structures and social behaviors. These differences can lead to varying colony sizes.
Species like Cephalotes varians, for example, tend to have small colonies. At maturity, they just contain around 1 to several hundred workers and soldiers. In contrast, some ant colonies can contain way more than thousands. Argentine ants can even form supercolonies of more than a million ants.
Here are some examples of common ants with their approximate colony size:
- Carpenter ants: Carpenter ants typically have colonies of 2,000 to 5,000 individuals. Some species such as the C. vicinus though, have colonies of up to 10,000 individuals.
- Leafcutter ants: These ants can have colonies with up to 8 million individuals.
- Fire ants: Fire ants form large colonies that damage crops and structures. The average fire ant colony can have up to 500,000 individuals.
- Weaver ants: Weaver ant colonies can have up to 500,000 individuals. These colonies consist of more than a hundred trees and spam numerous trees.
- Pharaoh ants: Pharaoh ant colonies can consist of dozens to thousands of individuals.
What are Supercolonies?
Supercolonies are large ant colonies consisting of a single ant species. These colonies consist of multiple interconnected nests. All in all, these nests can contain billions of ants and span large geographical areas. 
Supercolonies are usually found in polygynous ant colonies. These colonies have multiple queens that cooperate with each other. Together, these queens allow for mass growth and expansion.
The Largest Ant Colony in the World
The largest known ant supercolony is the Argentine ant supercolony. This colony covers an area of more than 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles). It stretches along the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts in Southern Europe. It’s estimated to consist of millions of nests with billions of ants.
Research even suggests that the Argentine ant supercolony is multicontinental. Related Argentine ants have been found in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and the US.
It’s believed the supercolony originated in South America before spreading around the world.
Do All Ants Live Inside of a Colony?
Yes, all ants live inside of a colony. Ants are social insects. They have evolved to live in highly organized communities. There, different individuals work together for the good of the colony.
Ant Colony Structure
Ant colonies have a complex social structure built upon the division of labor. They consist of 3 main castes, queens, workers, and males. Each of these castes performs different tasks to help the colony grow and survive.
Queens are responsible for reproduction and laying eggs. Workers, on the other hand, are sterile females. They’re responsible for gathering food, caring for the young, and defending the colony.
Lastly, males are produced solely for the purpose of mating with new queens.
How Many Queens Are in an Ant Colony?
The number of queens in an ant colony can vary depending on the species. Some ant species have only one queen per colony, while others can have multiple queens. There are even colonies without queens at all.
See this article to learn more about how many queens are in a colony.
How Many Worker Ants Are There in an Ant Colony?
Likewise, the number of workers depends on the species and other factors. Smaller colonies may just have a few dozen worker ants. On the other hand, larger ones or supercolonies may have millions.
How Many Ants Are There in the World?
It’s difficult to come up with the exact number of ants in the world since they are so numerous and diverse. However, scientists estimate that there may be 20 quadrillion ants in the world. That’s around 2.5 million ants for every person on Earth.
Summary: How Many Ants Are in a Colony?
Ant colonies come in various sizes and can range from a few dozen to millions of ants. The number of ants in a colony depends on species, age, and environmental conditions.
For example, a mature carpenter ant colony can contain around 2,000 to 10,000 individuals. On the other hand, leafcutter ant colonies can have more than 5 million.