Ant Lifespan: How Long Do They Live?

How long does an ant live?

Ever wondered how one of the most common insects comes about? These hardworking and highly organized insects are always seen scavenging for food.

Has your curiosity ever led you to ask questions such as how they survive and thrive? You might want to stick around to find such answers right here.

Here, we’re talking about their lifespan and how they live. These creatures are never known to idle around but always on the move to get some food back to their colony.

This begins with some colony members going out in search of food sources.

When found, pheromones are secreted to map out such areas. Using their inbuilt homing devices, other ants can locate the food. However, pheromones aren’t only used for food gathering.

Ants use the same to attract mates and also to signal danger to their colony.

How Long Do Ants Live?

This answer largely depends on the caste an ant belongs two. Now, every ant colony irrespective of species has three castes; reproductive females, reproductive males, and non-reproductive females.

These are also known as the queens, males, and workers.

Depending on the caste, an ant may live anywhere from a few weeks, several months, and as long as several decades. In other words, the ant caste an ant belongs to will determine how long it lives.

Ant Caste & Lifetime

Several mentions have been made about ant caste. Now, it’s important to further elaborate on what it’s about and how it influences their lifespan.

We earlier said the caste system in ant societies includes the queen, males, and workers.

  • Queens

You might wonder why this ant caste is mentioned in the plural. Well, this is largely attributed to the make-up of the species in question. While certain ant species are known to have a single queen, others have multiple.

These are designated as monogyne and polygyne respectively.

Every activity within an ant colony rotates around the queen. In other words, as the originator or founder of the colony, everything needs to be done to maintain or sustain her reproduction.

The workers who are offspring of the queen have no reproductive capacity.

In other words, they do not lay eggs of their own. Instead, they and members of other castes channel their energy towards perpetuating the existence of the colony to which the queen is central.

Egg-laying by the queen needs to go on without any form of disturbance.

An easy way to identify the most important and (queen) in a colony is by their large wings. These are distinct from those of other castes.

However such wings are snapped out after mating, especially when she wants to start her colony.

Other physical features include a large thorax and an elastic abdomen from where the eggs are laid. Ant queens normally live the longest.

Queen ants can live for decades under the right conditions.

  • Males

Male ants are normally larger in body size compared to worker ants. These have large wings and can be differentiated from queens from their slender abdomens.

From the time they’re born or hatched, they begin to wander around their nests.

In terms of colony duties, male ants contribute nothing. They wait until the time’s right to embark on their nuptial flight. Their roles are strictly those of mating with as many females as possible.

Male ants will live anywhere from an hour to a few days after mating.

  • Workers

The day-to-day running of every ant colony solely depends on worker ants.

These usually make up the most population. The primary role of worker ants is to fend for the queen. These also take care of eggs, larvae, and pupae.

What more? They also serve to protect from parasites and predators.

Worker ants have varying sizes with some having large heads while others are quite tiny. All of these serve various roles such as defense (provided by soldier ants) among others.

After the queen, worker ants live the second-longest. This ant caste lives for several months.

Lifecycle & Lifespan Of An Ant

The lifespan of an ant is divided into four stages; the egg stage, larval stage, pupa, and adult stages.

These are stages every ant passes through to maturity. They metamorphose into the next stage after outgrowing the previous.  As expected, the adult stage is where metamorphosis ends.

  • Eggs

We earlier mentioned that an ant queen is responsible for the laying of eggs. This reproductive action is central to the survival or perpetuation of every ant colony. This is the starting point of the ant cycle.

Now, two types of eggs are laid; fertilized and unfertilized eggs.

Fertilized eggs usually hatch into female ants while unfertilized eggs hatch into male ants. This reproductive feature gives an idea of the intricate nature of ant reproduction.

With the egg hatched, it gives rise or birth to ants at the larval stage of development.

  • Larva

At their early stage, larvae from hatched eggs have a worm-like appearance without legs or eyes. These have no resemblance to ants. They need to constantly feed to develop. The queen has no nurturing role to play here.

Rather, it’s the adult workers that carry out such duties.

With good nurturing which they always get, larvae develop fast and molt severally before they get to metamorphose to the next stage of the lifecycle.

  • Pupa

At the pupa stage, there’s some semblance of adulthood. In other words, the ants have clearly taken on the resemblance of adult ants. It’s easy to see why because this stage is the last before the adult stage is entered into.

Unlike adult ants, pupae have their wings folded against their bodies. The same applies to the antennae. The look of the pupae depends on the ant species as some are known to have spun cocoons around them.

Development rapidly occurs at this stage as ants turn into adults.

  • Adult

At the adult stage, a hard exoskeleton forms on their body. This creates a hindrance for further development.

For ant lifecycle to be fully completed (from the egg stage to adulthood), it will take anywhere from a few weeks to several months depending on conditions (favorable and unfavorable).

With this knowledge on ant lifespan, you have a better idea of what happens within their colonies and how to control them. You also know that the most visible members of the colony are the worker ants.

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