Ants reproduce between drones and virgin queens. Each ant begins as an egg. Over time it travels through the larvae and pupae stages and eventually reaches the adult stage. The queen lays the eggs and cares for them or lets the workers care for them until they reach the adult stage. The colony communicates as a whole, so the queen knows if and when new workers, drones, or queens need to be added to keep the colony running smoothly.
Types of Ants
Three types of ants exist: workers, queens, and drones. There are a few species of ants where the workers can reproduce, but for the most part they cannot. When workers do reproduce, they usually create drones. The queen is responsible for keeping the colony populated. Queens and drones mate only once, leaving the queen to lay eggs, and they fly when they mate. Drones and queens all have wings until they mate, at which point the wings fall off and the drones die. Colonies exist with a single queen or multiple queens.
The queen decides what kind of eggs to lay as well as how many for her colony. While she mates only once, she can lay eggs many times. The queen also lives much longer than the other ants. When the queen begins a new colony, she only lays fertilized eggs to create workers. The workers and new queens are created from fertilized eggs. The queen uses chemicals to decide whether the fertilized eggs will be workers or virgin queens. The chemicals she adds will retard ovary development and stops wing growth to create the worker ants. Later, when the colony is established and can support further growth, the queen will lay unfertilized eggs to create drones and fertilized eggs for more queens.
JRank Science Encyclopedia
Ants Mating, Reproduction, and Lifespan
University of Arizona