The average ant is about one-millionth the size of a person, but even though they’re small, they’re quite complex. These diminutive creatures undergo many developmental changes during their lifetimes, from egg to adult.
What happens during the ant life cycle?
Ants go through metamorphosis—a complete change in body form—that has four stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult.
Egg. The ant life cycle begins with an egg. Fertilized eggs become female ants, while unfertilized eggs become male ants.
Larva. The tiny egg hatches into a worm-shaped larva without eyes or legs. Ant larvae eat constantly, relying on adult workers to feed them. Larvae grow quickly, molting several times as they get bigger.
Pupa. When the larva is big enough, it metamorphoses into a pupa. Pupae look more like adults, but their antennae and wings are folded against their bodies. In some species, the pupa spins a cocoon around itself for protection. In other species, the pupa remains uncovered. The pupal stage is one of rest and reorganization. During this time, the pupa changes into an adult.
Adult. Finally, the pupa emerges as an adult. Adult ants are full-grown. Their hard exoskeleton prevents them from getting any larger. Adult ants belong to one of three castes: queens, female workers or males.
The ants’ life cycle takes from several weeks to several months, depending on the species and environment.
How long do ants live?
The lifespan of ants depends on the caste. Males live for only a few weeks and die after mating. Workers usually live for several months. Queens can live for decades under the right conditions.
Ants are active all year long in tropical climates. In cooler climates, they survive the winter by going into a state of dormancy or inactivity known as diapause.
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