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How Long Do Ants Live?

Last Updated: 05.02.23


The average lifespan of ants depends on various factors, including the species they belong to, but queens are known to live for up to 15 years, in some cases even more, while workers usually live around a month. Males live until they mate for the first time, so if you are looking for a natural ant killer to get rid of them, they are the least of your concerns. 

Ants are some of the most common types of insects on this earth, and there is little chance that someone has not seen one at least once in a lifetime. Actually, if you spend a day out in nature, you have every chance of meeting one of these little guys. Moreover, you probably know that they are usually harmless. 

However, the question is what do you do when you notice that there is a large population living around your backyard or, even worse, in your home. One of the key characteristics of these insects is that they make their way inside homes, trying to find food and other things that they can use for their survival. 

If you have noticed what seems to be an ant infestation around your home, one of the first thoughts you might have is that hopefully, they don’t live for too long. Unfortunately, this is not the case, as you are going to see in the next lines. The truth is that our lives would be a lot easier if this were true, as there would be no need to pay for pest control supplies. 

On the other hand, you should know that ants can, in fact, live for a really long time. Of course, some factors can determine their lifespan, the species or role within the colony being just two of these. 


A bit about ants 

Ants are known for living in very large colonies and their hierarchy and structure play crucial roles in their survival. Just as it’s the case with bees, each ant colony has a queen that controls the entire group’s reproduction. If we are talking about a really large population, two and even three queens might be present to ensure that enough ants are being born. 

Besides the queen (or queens) each colony has a large number of sterile females that are known as workers or soldiers that develop, maintain, build, and further protect the colony. Fertile males are also present, these also being known as drones. 

These insects are defined by their resilience, and one particular aspect that held our fascination for a very long time is that they work as a unified entity in which each individual operates solely to support the colony. This way, they have managed to get to almost every known landmass on Earth, the exception being highly inhospitable environments such as Antarctica. 

Given their adaptability, which is another trait that supports their survival, ants live in a wide range of environments. There are over 1,000 species of ants identified in North America alone, and it’s also interesting to know that their living space has a strong impact on their diet, as well as on their social structure. 

Some of the most common places in which they can be found include wood structures and logs, sidewalk pavement in urban areas, dirt, large trees, as well as close to homes or other appealing spots such as restaurants. 

As you can very well imagine, they need to ensure their own survival, which means that they are naturally attracted to places that have abundant food sources. Sugars and proteins are highly appreciated within a colony since these are excellent sources of food that sustain their overall activity. 



So how long do they live for? 

The answer to this question depends on multiple factors, and there is no single answer. To understand this better, it’s good to know that each type of ant has a different average lifespan. Other factors such as the environment and sources of food can have an impact over the life of these insects as well. 

There are some general rules when it comes to the most common ant species and how long they can live for. For example, carpenter ant queens can live between 7 and 10 years, while black garden ant queens can be around for up to 15 years. As you can tell, there’s no way you can just ignore an infestation and hope that it simply goes away. 

Pharaoh ant queens are known to survive for some time between 4 and 12 years, while thief ants are not that lucky, having an average lifespan of only 1 year. When it comes to fire ants, the queen can live for around 6 years, while the workers are around for only a month. 

Another trait of these otherwise harmless insects is that they will do everything necessary to ensure their survival, including conquering another colony if it poses any kind of threat. As you can see, even though these are very small creatures, they are very complex. 


Life cycle 

Just like many other insects on Earth, ants go through what is known as metamorphosis, namely a complete change in terms of body form that has four different stages. The first one is the egg stage, in which the life cycle begins. If the egg is fertilized, it will become a female ant, while if it’s an unfertilized one, it will turn into a male ant. 

Once the minuscule egg hatches, this happens under the form of a worm-shaped larva that doesn’t have any legs or eyes, but that it constantly eats, relying on adult workers to be fed. These larvae grow rather fast, getting ready for the pupa stage. 

At this point, the tiny baby ant already starts looking more like an adult, but the antennae and potential wings are folded tightly against the body. Depending on the species, the pupa can either spin a cocoon around to protect itself or remain uncovered. It is during this resting and reorganization stage that the pupa turns into an adult. 

When it finally emerges as one, the ant is fully-grown and the hard exoskeleton prevents any further growing process. Another interesting fact about these insects is their hierarchy. An adult ant can belong to one of three castes, namely males, female workers, or queens. 

After everything is set, the ant can live for several weeks, months, or even years, depending on every aspect. Males, for example, usually only live for just a few weeks and they die after they mate for the first time, while queens can be around for quite a long time. 

Each queen produces a few males every once in a while in order to collect the sperm necessary for creating the next batch of workers. The environment also has an impact on an ant’s activity, as these insects are active throughout the entire year in warm climates. 

In cooler zones, they make it through the winter by going into a state of inactivity and dormancy also known as diapause. Whether food is available or not also has a significant impact on the lives of these insects. 



A few words about their diet 

Depending on the species each colony belongs to, it can have one preferred type of food or another. Some are into sweet alternatives (also known as sugar ants), while others are going for protein-rich sources of food (these are known as grease ants). In case the food resources are scarce, the workers sacrifice themselves by eating less so that the rest of the colony can survive. 

Even if this means that a smaller number of worker ants is going to be around, the colony can still continue to operate for a while, especially the queen which is usually the most protected one. 

Now that we’ve covered these interesting creatures, it’s important to mention that if they do thrive in a certain area and the population increases more than it should, they can become a pest and create damage around them. For this reason, if you suspect that this is the case in your home or area, the first thing you could do is buy some insect-control products. 

If these don’t work, you can always call a specialist that can assess the situation and, considering every factor, can recommend you the right course of action to prevent these little guys from destroying your home. Unfortunately, given their perseverance, large numbers, and perfect organization, they can create considerable damage. 



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