Like bees, wasps and termites most ants in a colony are virgin worker ants. For most ant species a single fertile adult queen lays all the eggs, and controls the colony through hormones. Mature colonies will also contain virgin queens, and male drones.
For most species, in the late summer or early fall the workers will allow the virgin queens and drones to leave the colony and engage in a nuptial flight.
Unlike bees and wasps, but like termites, only the queens and drones have wings.
The drone die after the nuptial flight. The queen will store the sperm collected on her nuptial flight, which will last her for the rest of her life. She will land, chew off her wings, and find a place to nest. All of her offspring will be daughters. The first generation may be very small, called minims, if the queen was not able to forage much food on her own.
Some ant species are known for raising ants of different sizes, called castes, for different tasks. Warrior caste ants are typically more robust, and have larger mouth parts. Some ants that live in areas that have an extended dry season select some workers that fill their abdomen full of liquid, to serve as larders for the rest of the colony.
The queens in some species of ants do not fly on nuptial flights, and these ants can have large supercolonies with multiple queens.