A queen ant is an adult, mated female ant in an ant colony; generally the mother of all the other ants in that colony. They develop from larvae specially fed in order to become sexually mature. Depending on the species, there can be either a single mother queen, or potentially hundreds of fertile queens in some invasive species.
The anatomy of a queen ant is very similar to other ants of that particular species, however, they are noticeably larger than the rest of the ants in the colony. Like other ants, queens have a hard outer covering called the exoskeleton, and their bodies are divided into three main sections: the head, thorax, and abdomen. They have a pair of jointed antennae that can be extended forward when investigating an object. Unlike other ants, however, young queens have a pair of wings. These are only used for the nuptial flight, and are later detached either by the queen herself or chewed off by her worker ants.
Ants go through 4 stages of development: egg, larva, pupa (sometimes cocoon, depending on the species) and adult. The larvae have no legs but are capable of some minor movement, such as bending their head toward a food source when fed. During this stage, the level of care and nourishment the larvae receive will determine their eventual adult form. When resources are low, all larvae will develop into female worker ants; however, if the parent colony has a plentiful supply of food, some of the larvae will receive better nourishment than others, and develop into winged, sexually mature female ants destined to leave the colony.
When conditions are hot and humid after rain and wind is minimal, masses of winged ants or "flying ants" will leave their parent nest and take flight  . The mating flights occur simultaneously in all ant nests of the particular species. The female "queen" ants will fly a long distance, during which they will mate with at least one winged male from another nest. He transfers sperm to the seminal receptacle of the queen and then dies. Once mated, the "queen" will attempt to find a suitable area to start a colony and, once found, detach her wings.
Once the queen has found a suitable nesting site, she will urgently dig herself a tunnel ending in a small chamber  . She will seal herself within the chamber and, unless forced to, never emerge into the sunlight again, becoming acutely photophobic.
The queen will usually lay eggs immediately, though some might wait until the spring. When she begins to lay eggs, she will lay about one per day. It will develop into a larva within about 25 days, and then produce threads by itself and, after about 10 days, form a small white cocoon. If conditions are favorable, the eggs will hatch within several weeks. The queen will neither eat nor drink until the eggs have hatched into worker ants; she will survive off the now defunct wing muscles in her thorax, and she may consume some of her eggs.
About 60 days after the first eggs are laid, a worker is born. Its body is black and very small owing to lack of nutrition. However, it emerges from the cocoon and immediately begins to forage for food. Eventually, the number of workers increases to around 10. The queen now receives food from the workers and they take care of her and the new larvae. In the second year, the number of workers increases to between 30 and 100.
The term "queen" is often deceptive, as the queen ant has very little control over the colony as a whole. She has no known authority or decision-making control; instead her sole function is to reproduce. Therefore the queen is best understood as the reproductive element of a colony rather than a leader. Once a colony is established, the worker ants meet the queen's needs such as giving her food and disposing of her waste. Because ant social structure is very complex and individual ants are relatively simple, an ant colony can be thought of as a single organism, and the individual ants as cells or limbs of the organism, as the individuals can rarely survive on their own.
Once the colony has established itself, the queen ant will continuously lay eggs. At the time of egg-laying, the queen may choose to fertilize eggs at will by using the sperm cells retained from the nuptial flight, which will create female worker ants instead of males. If the fertilized eggs and pupae are well-nurtured, they could potentially become queens as well.