Ant Life Cycle


We have all seen a row of ants marching across our ceilings and walls, and must have been curious about their origin and life cycle. Well, ants are a billion−year−old species that have wandered the Earth

Ants are small insects that belong to the Hymenoptera order and the Arthropoda class. They originated from the world's largest and most ancient insect colony. A typical ant colony can include up to 20 million individuals, with over 10,000 species.

Formicidae is the scientific name for ants. Ants are fascinating and complex organisms that rely solely on their social structures (colonies) for existence. They can also be a severe insect, wreaking havoc on homes, yards, and gardens. Ant reproduction is a complicated process that entails identifying, selecting, and successfully fertilising females for the eggs produced to survive. Ants go through four different phases during their life cycle− egg, larva, pupa, and adult. From start to end, the process can take up to 60 days. From how ants reproduce to how they serve in their communities, we look at the life cycle of an ant. Looking at the facts of an ant's life cycle will help you fight an ant invasion more successfully if you happen to come across one

Adult ants are grouped into one of three castes− queen, worker, or male.

  • Queens are females who received more food when they were larvae. Queens initially have wings and fly to find a mate or partners, but they lose them before starting a new colony. A queen can survive for many years if the right conditions are met

  • Workers are females who received less food as larvae. Although they are sterile, they carry out other tasks include caring for the brood, creating and maintaining the nest, and gathering food. Workers can live for several months and lack wings.

  • Males with wings use them to fly to queens and engage in mating. They just stay for a short while and never participate in colony tasks.

Life Cycle of Ants

When describing how ants reproduce, a quick discussion of the many stages within the ant's life cycle may be useful. Throughout their lives, ants go through several physical changes. The queen, whose primary duty is to breed, is at the heart of every ant colony. An ant's life cycle involves a full transformation, therefore it has four stages− egg, larva, pupa, and adult. These are the phases−

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Stage 1 – Egg stage

An ant's life starts with the hatching of a little white and sparkling egg. Females are born from fertilised eggs, while males are born from unfertilized eggs. 5−7 days will pass before the eggs hatch. Did you know that a queen army ant can lay up to 150 million workers in her lifetime and a queen leafcutter ant can lay up to 300,000 eggs in a single day

Stage 2 – Larvae stage

The tiny eggs hatch into larvae with no sight or legs. After that, the larvae go through several moulting stages, during which hair continues to develop. Because worker ants do not have vision or legs at this stage, their hair is shaped like a hook, helping them to catch larvae ants. The larvae of the ant eat mostly on adult worker drones throughout this stage, going through several moults

Stage 3 – Pupa stage

Several moults are required for the ant larvae to reach the pupa stage. Physical characteristics including eyes, legs, and wings may begin to emerge. Ants' antennae and legs are wrapped around their own bodies during the pupa stage

Stage 4 – Adult stage

After 6 to 10 weeks, the adult ant emerges from the eggs to begin the pupa stage of development. Because ants' exoskeleton prevents them from becoming larger, when an adult hatches, it has reached maturity. The mature ant is soft and light−coloured at first, but after a few hours, the external part of the ant becomes darker and harder

Reproduction in Ants

Ant species have been seen to use a variety of reproduction techniques. Females of many species have been discovered to be able to reproduce asexually via thelytokous parthenogenesis. Most ant species' reproductive cycles begin with a system in which only the queen and breeding females are allowed to mate. Ants are tiny organisms with a social welfare system in which the queen and worker ants share tasks. Worker ants look for food, brood, and upkeep the nest, while queen ants are in charge of reproduction and dissemination. Isn't quite the same whenever it refers to ant reproduction as it is with mammalian reproduction? Ants, unlike other insects, are unable to reproduce. The queen ant is the only female ant that is capable of reproducing; all other female ants are sterile. Male drone ants are viable and capable of mating with the queen ant

How Long Do Ants Live?

Ants have different lifespans depending on the species. Male ants die after mating, whereas female worker ants live for several decades. If the habitat is appropriate, the queen ant can survive for decades

An ant's average life expectancy might range from several weeks to 15 years. This depends mostly on the genus, the activity of the ant, as well as the food sources available. A black garden ant, for example, can survive for half a century, however, fire ant workers are only expected to live for around a month. Several queens are said to have ruled for as long as 28 years!

In trying to seek a partner, all mature reproductive ants have wings and swarm. After the adults have mated, the female leaves the colony in search of a suitable nesting location. The female ant breaks off her wings once she has found a good nesting spot. She then begins to dig the nest. She begins laying eggs once it has grown large enough, which take a few weeks to hatch. She is devoted to her first−generation children and rarely if ever, leaves them. They look after the queen once the first generation has been raised, and she never leaves the nest again. The queen ant can either continue to make offspring without mating with a male or use asexual parthenogenesis to do so. Unless they are selected to become reproductive, the children will be exact duplicates of their mother but will remain infertile females.


The fact that ants can carry 20 times their own weight is significant because they are often mocked for their tiny size. The queen of the Pogonomyrmex owyheei ant may survive for up to 30 years, unlike other insects that perish within a few extended periods. Ants are also known for working together, as a single ant colony can include up to 360 million ants.


    1. What happens to ants during metamorphosis?

      Ans: An ant's life cycle encompasses the entire metamorphosis, which means it goes through developmental steps− egg, larva, pupa, and adult

        2. Do ants have really wings?

          Ans: Young queen ants and male ants fly to mate. After mating, the female ant sheds its wings and starts a new life

            3. Why do ants love sugar so much?

              Ans: In nature, ants are opportunistic feeders, eating anything from leaves to fruits to plants. Because sugar is a source of energy for ants, they collect additional ants and bring everything back to their nest, where additional ants will utilise it.

                4. Define queen?

                  Ans: At least one queen exists in every ant colony. The Argentine ant, for example, may have two or more. A queen lays eggs, which develop into queen bees having wings, and they use them to move away from home and mate.

                    5. Define drones?

                      Ans: Drones are flying reproductive males who exist solely to mate with a queen.

                      Updated on: 13-Oct-2022


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