Jeffrey Hahn, Asst. Extension Entomologist
Upon landing, the queen breaks off their wings. As she starts construction of the nest, she lays a batch of eggs which she cares for until they mature into adults. From that point on, the workers assume all of the work responsibilities and the queen's sole job is to lay eggs. She is taken care of by worker ants and remains in the nest her entire life.
Finding a swarm of ants indicates a nest is nearby. However, a swarm, in and of itself, is not necessarily a problem. For the most part, like when they are found in your yard, they are not anything more than a nuisance. Under these circumstances, just ignore them until they go away on their own.
If winged ants are found indoors, then there is a nest inside the home. Correctly identifying the ant species will help determine the best control. Pavement ants nest in the soil under objects, like sidewalks, driveways, stones, and concrete slab construction of homes. When found inside, they are annoying but are not a structural problem. The only necessary control when pavement ant swarmers are inside is to physically remove them, especially if you only see winged ants and not any workers
Finding winged carpenter ants indoors is another matter. They nest in water damaged wood and can potentially damage buildings. You can be somewhat patient when trying to determine where they are coming from and attempting control but you should not ignore them indefinitely. Their elimination is best done by a professional pest management company.
However, sometimes a wingless carpenter ant queen is found walking around in or around a home. Because it is a carpenter ant, people are concerned about a nest being in the home. But remember that this queen has not established a nest yet and is still looking for a place to begin one. Her presence does not mean a colony is in the home. The only necessary control is to dispatch her.