What Is An Ants Life Cycle: Development, Reproduction, And Lifespan Of Ants!

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Despite their tiny stature, ants are among the most complex creatures on the planet. The adult ants you see in your yard or home have undergone several developmental phases. Consequently, understanding the ants life cycle makes it simpler to deal with their irksome invasion.

Continue reading to discover all you need to know about the ants’ life cycle.

Starting a New Colony

Starting a new colony in ant species is a process that is exclusive to a certain stratified member within the family, that is, the queen.

what is an ants life cycle

In fact, the greatest hurdle for any ant queen is to establish a new colony. She is the only female capable of laying eggs; the other females, known as worker ants, are sterile.

However, the workers play an important part in the colony hierarchy by caring for the queen and all-new eggs, procuring food, and protecting the colony.

Meanwhile, when a colony becomes too big, or a queen ant is near the end of her life span, she begins to create new eggs. They mate with the colony’s male individuals to start this process. In the absence of any males, the queen sets off in search of them.

After mating, the queen ant returns to the colony and lays her eggs. These eggs then hatch into new queens and males.

Eventually, the new queens depart the colony to mate and form other colonies.

Different Stages of the Ants Colony

queen ant and workers

The framework of an ant colony is quite complex despite the tiny size of these pesky critters.

In fact, there are three different stages in an ant colony- the ergonomic stage, the reproductive stage, and the aging stage.

  • The ergonomic stage is when the colony is expanding and raising more workers.
  • The second on the list is the reproductive stage, which is when the queen starts laying eggs and new ants are born. Moreover, as the colony’s reproductive stage begins, the queen will start to produce more workers in order to guarantee the colony’s survival. At this point, she will also produce virgin queens and males. Once they reach their adult phase, the virgin queens and males will leave the nest to mate. After mating, they will die, and the process will start anew.
  • The last stage is the aging stage when the colony starts to die off.

What is an ants life cycle?

A red ant moving a grub to safety within a disturbed nest

An ant’s life cycle is a continuous process that starts with the birth of an ant queen and ends with the death of the last worker.

However, if we talk about the process of procreation, these critters, like other insect species, undergo metamorphosis through four distinct life stages: egg, larval, pupae, and adult. 

Development begins when the queen lays eggs, which will hatch into larvae. Larvae will go through several stages of growth before becoming pupae and, finally, the adult ants.

As for the length of each stage, well, it varies depending on the species of ant, but most ants take around six to eight weeks to complete their life cycle. 

That said, in light of the fact that understanding the life cycle of ants may help us deal with these obtrusive pests effectively, let’s examine each stage in further detail:


As you already know, the queen ant is the only colony member who can lay eggs. They are capable of laying up to 2,000 eggs every day. These eggs are generally produced in batches.

The ants’ eggs are about 5 mm in diameter and are slightly oval, white, and transparent. They are laid in a continuous ribbon by the queen around the nest.

The eggs are glued together with a secretion from the queen’s mouth, which hardens quickly. This forms a mass that facilitates its transportation around the nest by the worker ants.

However, not all eggs that are laid reach the next phase and undergo metamorphosis. Some do not develop and become food for the queen and the larvae. While some others become prey to predators or parasites, or they may not have the right conditions to hatch.

The rest hatch into nymphs, which look like tiny adults. These critters go through several molts before they reach their adult form.

Besides all that, here is an intriguing tidbit for you: Did you know the queen ant of the colony is responsible for selecting the sex of its children? She determines the sex of her offspring by controlling how much royal jelly she feeds to her developing larvae.

If she feeds them a lot of royal jellies, they will become queens; if she feeds them less, they will develop into males.


Larvae are the developing stages of an ant, which undergo a number of changes before they become adults. They are typically very small and appear white or transparent.

When the larvae are first hatched, they are almost featureless and lack distinguishing markings; they possess no eyes or legs. However, as they undergo successive molts, they gradually grow in size and develop various hairs on their body.

In fact, the most distinctive feature of ants larvae is their hooked hair, which helps them attach to other ants so that they can be carried back to the colony.

Furthermore, these larvae live in a protected area inside the nest and are fed by adult ants. They feed and thrive on food and juices regurgitated by the adults. This is an important time for their growth and development.

However, the larvae of the ant colony are fed differently depending on their role in the colony. The future queen ants are given a higher quality diet to develop fertility.

The workers who will become the sterile members of the colony are fed less so they can be smaller and have less energy.


The pupa stage is the transitional stage between larva and adult ant. It is a time when the ant’s body undergoes significant changes as it prepares to become an adult.

In fact, this is when the ant metamorphosis into the next form of its lifecycle. They undergo these changes leading to the growth of new muscles, organs, and wings.

The process takes around a month for the larvae to transition into the next stage of development.

That said, the pupa can be found in different places depending on the species of ant, but it is typically in a protected location where it will not be disturbed.


After undergoing metamorphosis, the ants develop into their adult forms and transform into three different types of ants: workers, queens, and males.

Worker ants are the most common type and are responsible for tasks such as foraging for food and caring for the colony’s young. Queens are responsible for laying eggs, while males mate with queens to produce new colonies.

However, as an ant reaches maturity, it acquires the typical characteristics of an insect, such as possessing six legs and a body divided into the three segments of the head, thorax, and abdomen.

The head has the ant’s eyes, antennae, and mouthparts. The thorax has the ant’s wings and legs. The abdomen stores food, water, eggs, and sperm.

Ants Hierarchy and The Difference Between the members

Aphaenogaster dulcinea


The queen is the most important member of an ant colony. She is the largest ant in the colony, weighing up to 2 milligrams. She is also responsible for laying eggs, which is why they are so important to the colony’s success.

In fact, only the queen ant can lay eggs and reproduce. She is the colony’s lone female with this skill. The other ants in the colony are all infertile females.

Following the mating rituals, the queen ant lays eggs that hatch into a new generation of the colony. After the eggs hatch, the queen feeds and grooms the larvae. She also locates a new nest and lays eggs. The cycle repeats until the colony dies off or the queen dies.


Drones are the equivalent of male ants and have no other responsibilities in the colony. In fact, they have only one purpose- to impregnate a queen!

Interestingly, drones have very small heads in comparison to their large eyes. However, they are a bit bigger than worker ants.

Since these members of an ants colony are mainly involved in mating, they are generally produced in late summer and early fall; that is when the colony needs more males to mate with new queens.

Following the only purpose to mate with the queen, the drones then die shortly afterward.


The worker ants are the most common type of ant, making up most of the colony. Their responsibilities may change with age, as different groups specialize in different activities.

The female worker ants are responsible for brood care, nest maintenance, and food collection.

However, the most important task for the workers is to control the nutrition of the larvae all the time. If they feed them too much, the larvae will become worker ants; if they feed them less, the larvae will become soldier ants.

Furthermore, if the colony comes under attack, the workers also ensure that more larvae become soldiers so that there is a greater chance of survival for their colony.

How Long Do Ants Live: discover the average life span.

Well, according to research, the average longevity of ants may range from a few weeks to 15 years on average. That is contingent upon a number of factors, such as the species, the function the ant serves, and the accessibility of food sources.

For instance, whereas fire ant workers are predicted to survive for less than a month, black garden ants may live for approximately two decades.

Cheers to the queen! Did you know that in almost every species, the queen outlives the rest of the colony? It is reported that some queens ruled for 28 years!


In conclusion, ants have a life cycle that can be broken down into four stages: Egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Additionally, queen ants are capable of laying thousands of eggs that will hatch and create new colonies.

Moreover, if you are experiencing an ant infestation in your home or garden, you should consult a pest control professional to eliminate them permanently.

About the author

A biotechnologist by profession and a passionate pest researcher. I have been one of those people who used to run away from cockroaches and rats due to their pesky features, but then we all get that turn in life when we have to face something.