These alate queens or princesses to be more precise, are only waiting for the correct weather conditions and then the mating flights will begin. As you can see, colonies produce large numbers each year.
Note the newly emerged callow princesses. These are the winged ants which are pale in colour, and have not yet taken on the darker colouration of the adult ants.
Here we have the opened entrance holes to the niger nest beneath, from which the alates will emerge.
I quickly replaced the slab, as the nigers were attacking me rather more quickly than usual to say the least. I was getting covered in them to quickly for my liking, I was finding them in places you wouldn't want them to go! But then it was my fault for poking my nose into their home
Nice pics, I seen a yellow Queen when I got the cocoons from by back garden. I thought it was just a funny looking fly ;D. After seeing them in the pic, I feel a bit silly now that I just passed it off as a fly, and didn't think it could of been a queen.
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Lasius niger callows are normally pale grey to begin with, then they darken to a dull blackish brown in colour. Having said that, it is quite amazing to find that very young alate females (unfertile queens) are born (I.e. eclose from their cocoon) looking a very yellowish orange in colour, and look more like Lasius flavus or Lasius mixtus initially.
Within several hours their colour darkens, and after a day or two these 'yellow' niger princesses become the familiar charcoal blackish brown of the adult of this species. Anyone collecting a very young winged female callow could easily believe that they had caught a L. flavus, except they would have a shock to find that their yellow ant suddenly turned black the following day!