Ant Life cycle

OK so today we’re going to cover the life cycle of an Ant. Where insects such as butterflies have a simple circular life cycle, ants do have a circle but it’s got bits coming off of it. Small like a life sun If anything. Anyway, I will try my best to explain it and as always, here we go.

The general life cycle of ants with naked pupae.

Every Ant starts off as an egg. The size and colour of this egg varies depending on the species, but this is the start of an ant’s life. These Eggs are all laid by the reproductive in the colony. Sometimes the workers can lay eggs, but they’re not fertilised and often don’t hatch. These are called trophic eggs and are fed to the young as a source of food. Eggs, after a time, will hatch into larvae. The larvae look like little worms or maggots. This part of the life cycle has two jobs: Eat and grow. The larvae are ravenous and eat as much as they are given. In fact, they are the life stage that consume the most food within a colony. They are fed protein so they can grow and grow. The larval stage is the point at which their future role is determined. Depending on how much food they receive they will mature as workers, soldiers or future queens.

Fire ants displaying how food intake as a larva affects their adult form, Solenopsis sp.

The larvae will eventually develop into pupae. This is where the life cycle first branches. All ants are a pupa at some point in their life. However, the type of pupa varies. In some species, the larvae spin a silk cocoon similar to caterpillars. While inside the cocoons they will grow into the adult Ant. The alternative is that they don’t bother with the cocoon simply turn to a pupa without the cocoon. These are known as naked pupae. This part of the life cycle is the stepping stone between larvae and adult ant.

Naked pupa (left) and pupae in cocoons (right).

Once the pupae eclose they will be adult ants. At first they will seem lighter than their older sisters. This is because their exoskeleton hasn’t hardened yet. Once it dries out they will be the same colour as their sisters. In colonies where all workers are the same, their age will determine their role. Younger ants will care for the queen and brood. Then they will work on construction, then foraging before finally working as soldiers. This is because older ants have less time to contribute to the colony so less is lost if they were killed in colony defence. This is not true for colonies with different castes and winged queens and males will remain in the nest until their mating flight, but that is for another post.

And that is the most simple ant life cycle I can give you. As with everything there are exceptions but I will cover them in the future. If this was helpful or interesting. Please leave a like and share the site on social media. Thank you,

Alex.

Glossary

Eclose- A pupa ‘hatching’ into an adult ant

Trophic eggs- An egg which is not laid for reproduction but for nutrition, often for feeding the offspring hatched from viable eggs.

References

Gillott, C., 2005. Entomology. Springer Science & Business Media.

Hölldobler, B. and Wilson, E.O., 1990. The ants. Harvard University Press.

Rheindt, F.E., Strehl, C.P. and Gadau, J., 2005. A genetic component in the determination of worker polymorphism in the Florida harvester ant Pogonomyrmex badius. Insectes Sociaux52(2), pp.163-168.

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