If you have an ant problem in your home, it might seem like these little critters can live forever. But can they? The truth is, they live between a few days and several years, but a lot of factors go into how long an ant lives.
Did you know that some ants can live for years, while others can live for multiple years? There’s not one solid answer to “how long do ants live?” because different species and castes have different lifespans. In addition, environmental factors play a part. If you’re interested in the lifespan of ants, here are some topics you might be curious about:
Let’s learn more about these fascinating creatures and how long they live.
Ants go through four distinct phases of life, and it all starts when the queen ant, who is the central reproducing female of the colony, lays eggs. These are tiny and oval-shaped, and they’re well-protected by the worker ants assigned to the nursery. This phase can last between a few days to a few weeks, depending on the species, and when the egg is ready, it hatch into a larva.
Ant larvae are baby ants, and they don’t look much like ants at all. The worker ants continue to care for them by regurgitating their food to feed them. Worker ants will also scavenge for food for these quickly growing babies. As they grow, the larvae will shed their skins, or molt. This phase lasts only about a week, sometimes two, depending on the species.
When they’ve grown enough, these larvae will turn into pupas. They transform into a cocoon-like structure, much as a caterpillar does before it turns into a butterfly. They’ll remain in this passive pupal stage for between one week and one month, and when they’re ready to emerge, they’ll be fully adult ants.
During the pupal stage, the ant will develop internal systems that will tell it whether it’s a worker, soldier, or queen ant. Most of the male ants will become soldiers, sometimes called warriors. And most of the females will become workers; these ants hatch without wings. A few females will be ready to be queen ants; they’ll be born with wings.
Soldier ants act as warriors or defense. They will also mate with the queen. These ants only live from a few days to a few weeks, and they will die shortly after mating.
Worker ants are sterile females. They can live for several years, between five and seven if they are able to avoid predators and other dangers. The exception would be if the queen were to die; worker ants will die off fairly quickly, within weeks to months, if the queen dies.
A healthy queen can live for 15 years or even more, assuming she’s well taken care of and protected from predators. In captivity, some queens have even lived for over 20 years. Her primary role is to lay eggs and ensure the longevity of the colony, so the worker and soldier ants will do what it takes to protect her.
There are a lot of factors that can affect the longevity of an individual ant as well as that of a colony. Here are some of them:
When thinking about ant lifespans, it’s important to understand that these are all averages, and that different species have various lengths of life. In addition, the factors listed can have small or large impacts on their longevity. If you’re dealing with ants in your house, you probably aren’t going to be able to wait out a colony, so it’s important to get on top of your ant removal methods sooner rather than later.
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