Ants are fascinating creatures that can serve as beneficial insects or, in some cases, unwelcome pests. Regardless of your opinion of them, their resilience, fortitude, and endurance are truly admirable.
Their remarkable survival skills have earned them the nickname “nature’s miracle” among some scientists, which is hardly surprising when you consider the incredible feats they accomplish given their diminutive size.
So, how long do ants live? Ant queens typically survive for up to two decades under proper conditions, whereas male ants usually die just a few weeks after mating. Worker ants, on the other hand, can live for several months, though external factors can also influence their lifespan. Ant lifespans vary depending on several factors, such as the ant species, environmental conditions, and their role in the colony.
When it comes to a specific species of ants and their queens, there is a big average lifespan time difference, for example, carpenter ants have an average lifespan of 7 to 10 years, black garden ants up to 15 years, and pharaoh ants somewhere between 4 and 12 years.
Further in this guide, we provided information about the lifespan for some specific types of ants and the environmental conditions that affect them. We didn’t only provide this information but we also discussed their life stages because that is also important when talking about their ant life expectancy. So, let’s start with this helpful guide!
Average Ant Lifespan
The average lifespan of an ant is determined by several factors, including the species of ant, caste, and environmental factors.
Ant colonies have a hierarchical caste system, consisting of males, sterile females (also known as worker ants), and queen ants. Each caste has a specific purpose within the colony, and their lifespan is adapted to their role. Males have the shortest lifespan, as their sole purpose is to mate with the queen, after which they usually die within a week.
Worker ants, which comprise the largest part of the colony, are sterile females. The queen produces them to collect food, maintain and protect the colony, and tend to the needs of the queen and larvae. Under good living conditions, the lifespan of worker ants can vary from a few weeks to a few months, although there have been cases where worker ants have lived up to several years.
Queen ants have the longest lifespan of all the castes, as their primary role is to produce and lay eggs. Depending on the species, queen ants can live for several years to several decades. For instance, some black garden ants can live up to 15 years, while carpenter ants can live for 7 to 10 years.
Environmental factors, such as temperature, humidity, and food availability, also play a significant role in the lifespan of ants. Adapting to various environmental conditions can affect their lifespan and ability to thrive. Therefore, understanding the different factors that impact an ant’s lifespan is crucial for comprehending its behavior and survival strategies.
Queen ants have the longest lifespan among all the castes because it is their responsibility to fertilize the eggs and produce offspring. Most of these eggs become sterile females that help maintain and grow the colony. However, some eggs may become fertile females, leaving the colony after mating to start a new one.
The lifespan of a queen ant can vary depending on her living conditions, but on average, it is usually a couple of years. In some cases, queen ants have been known to live up to 15 years, and in rare cases, even for a few decades. The length of the queen’s lifespan depends on several factors, including the colony’s location, environmental conditions, and the ability of the ant colony to protect and care for the queen.
How Long Have Ants Lived on Earth?
Ants have been roaming the earth for an astonishing 170 million years! These tiny creatures probably first appeared during the Jurassic period, though initially, their numbers were far lower than other insects. Why? It was mainly due to the lack of flowers and blossoming plants.
But after 70 million years of existence, ants flourished in greater numbers, especially with the development of flowers and fruits. With these new food sources came a more stable and reliable supply of nutrients that allowed ants to evolve and thrive as a species. The constant food supply allowed them to adapt and diversify, leading to over 12,000 different species of ants today!
Different Types of Ants and How Long Do They Live
• Fire Ants
Fire ants are relatively short-lived insects, with an average lifespan that varies depending on their role in the colony. The queens typically live between 2 and 6 years, while male ants die just a few days after mating with the queen.
Worker ants, on the other hand, have a lifespan that ranges from just a few weeks to a couple of months. The temperature within the nest and the size of the ant play a crucial role in determining its lifespan. Smaller worker ants generally have a lifespan of only a few weeks, while larger ones can live up to 6 months.
• Carpenter Ants
Carpenter ants queens live somewhere between 7 to 10 years and sometimes up to 20 years (depending on the conditions), while worker ants live up to a year. Male ants like in every other species of ants die a couple of weeks after mating.
Related: How to Get Rid of Carpenter Ants Without an Exterminator
• Flying Ants
Flying ants have a slightly longer life span, with queens living for 15 years to a couple of decades. Worker ants can live up to a year, and male ants die quickly after mating with the queen, like in all other ant species.
• Sugar Ants
The lifespan of the sugar ant queen is around 7 years on average, while worker ants live up to only two months, which is quite shorter than most other worker ants.
Related: How to Get Rid of Sugar Ants in the House: A Complete Guide
• Bullet Ant
These ants, known for their painful sting usually live up to three months, while their queens can live for a couple of years. Their lifespan is somewhat shorter than in most other ant species.
• Argentine Ants
Argentine ant queens can live up to 7 years, while ant worker’s lifespan is usually between 6 and 9 months depending on the environment and food supply. Of course, in some cases, queens lived for far longer, but those cases are really rare.
• Harvester Ants
Harvester ant queens can live up to 15 years and there are recorded cases of their queens living for almost 20 years. They are considered to be one of the ant species that have a pretty long lifespan. On the other hand, the harvester worker ants lifespan is only up to 6 months on average.
• Black Garden Ants
Black garden ants are known for their long lifespans and their queens typically live for 15 years, but there are even a few cases where they have lived up to 30 years. Their worker ants can easily live up to a year. If the colony is strong, with a lot of food, their ant queens will produce a large number of worker ants which helps is lengthening the queen’s life.
Related: How to Get Rid of Black Ants: A Complete Guide
How Long Do Ants Live Without Food, Air, and Water
It is hard to find scientifically proven data about how long ants can last without their basic needs, like food, water, and air. Most sources say ants can survive without food for up to two weeks, regardless of the species.
Regarding water, some experiments showed that ants can live up to only 5 days without it. Ants don’t have lungs, and they breathe through small holes in their bodies called spiracles. They can’t drown in water, but it is hard to determine how long they can live without oxygen (air). In most research papers, this time period on average is around a few days.
How Long Do Ants Live in an Ant Farm
Ant farms don’t last long, because they don’t have a queen, so the colony exists only while the worker ants are alive. The lifespan of the ant farm depends on the type of ants you have on the farm. On average, this time period is a couple of months up to one year.
If you want to buy an ant farm, do a quick research on what type of ants are on the farm, and then you can check for how long the worker ants of that species of ants can live (their average lifespan). Also, it is very important to take daily care of the ants on the farm because without care they will die very quickly.
Related: Ant Size Chart and Comparison: Information and Facts
List of Sources
Metzler, S., Heinze, J., & Schrempf, A. (2016), Mating and longevity in ant males, Ecology and Evolution, University of Regensburg, Germany, IST Austria (Institute of Science and Technology Austria), Austria
Jemielity, S., Chapuisat, M., Parker, J. D., & Keller, L. (2005). Long live the queen: studying aging in social insects, Age (Dordrecht, Netherlands), Department of Ecology and Evolution, Biology Building, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
Verza, S. S., Mussury, R. M., Camargo, R. S., Andrade, A., & Forti, L. C. (2017), Oviposition, Life Cycle, and Longevity of the Leaf-Cutting Ant Acromyrmex rugosus rugosus, Brazil
Schrempf A., Cremer S., Heinze J., Social influence on age and reproduction: reduced lifespan and fecundity in multi-queen ant colonies, Behavior and Genetics, University of Regensburg, Germany
Tenacity of life in ants, University of Chicago
Life Cycle, Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts & Sciences
Ant Life Cycle, Arizona State University