Ants are unique and interesting creatures that can be beneficial insects or in some cases, unwanted pests. Depending on the situation you can love them or hate them, but their resistance, toughness, and durability are to be admired. They are talented when it comes to their survival and when you look at their size and what they can withstand, it is no wonder why some scientists call them a “nature’s miracle”.
So, how long do ants live? In proper conditions, the ant queens can live for a couple of decades, while male ants usually die a few weeks after mating, and worker ants can typically live for several months. Ant’s lifespan depends on a number of different factors such as the type of the ant species, environmental factors and the ant’s role in the colony (caste).
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 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!
How Long Does the Average Ant Live | Average Ant Lifespan
The life expectancy of an average ant depends on several factors, and among them the most important are:
- Ant species – black garden ant, pharaoh ant, red ants, carpenter ants, etc.
- Ant caste – male, female, worker ant or the queen.
- Environmental factors.
Ant society is divided into a caste system, and there are three castes – males, sterile females, and queen ants. Each caste has its purpose in the colony and their lifespan is adjusted to their purpose. Nobody should expect that female or male ants are able to live as long as queens because that way it would be very hard to deal with their great numbers, but nature thought of everything, so each caste has their life expectancy.
Male ants’ only purpose is to mate with the queen, and so their life span is the shortest. Generally, no matter what species, the male ant lives only for a week or so, after mating with the queen (there are a few exceptions). So, from birth to their death, the average lifespan for male ants is only a couple of weeks.
An interesting fact is that the largest part of the colony are sterile female ants. They are called “worker ants”, the queen gives birth to them so they can collect food and they are sterile to avoid unnecessary reproduction. Their main task is to maintain and protect the ant colony, collect the food and service needs of the queen and larvae. The lifespan of worker ants in good living conditions can vary but usually, it is somewhere between a couple of weeks, to a couple of months, but there are cases where worker ants have lived up to several years.
How Long Do Queen Ants Live?
Ant queens have the longest life spans because it is up to them to fertilize the eggs. Most of those eggs are sterile females, so the queens need to survive so that the colony can progress and naturally develop. There are also cases when some of the eggs become fertile females, but usually, after mating, they will go away from the colony and start a new one.
How long do queen ants live? It all depends on their living conditions, but usually, their average lifespan is a couple of years. In some cases, ant queens have lived up to 15 years, and in some rare situations even up to a couple of decades. All of this depends on the location of the colony, and the capability of the ant colonists to protect the colony and its queen.
How Long Have Ants Lived on Earth?
Ants as a species are living on the earth for almost 170 million years, and they probably appeared during the Jurassic period. They were low in numbers at the beginning compared to other insects, mostly due to the lack of flowers and blossoming plants.
After 70 million years of existence, they started to grow in numbers, together with the development of flowers and fruits. The development of flowers and fruits allowed ants to have a constant supply of food and nutrients, which made it easier for them to develop as a species. This is why today there are over 12000+ different species of ants.
Different Types of Ants and How Long Do They Live | The Lives of Ants
• How Long Do Fire Ants Live | Fire Ant Life Span
Fire ants have a short average lifespan, their queens live between 2 and 6 years, with an average lifespan of 3 years. Male ants die a couple of days after mating with the queen, while worker ants live from a couple of weeks up to a couple of months. Worker ants life span is heavily dependant on the temperature in the nest and on the size of the ant. Smaller worker fire ants live only for a couple of weeks, while larger ones can live up to 6 months.
• How Long Do Carpenter Ants Live?
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.
• How Long Do Flying Ants Live?
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.
• How Long Do Sugar Ants Live | Sugar Ant Life Span
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.
• How Long Does a Bullet Ant Live?
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.
• How Long Do Argentine Ants Live?
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.
• How Long Do Harvester Ants Live?
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.
• How Long Do Black Garden Ants Live?
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.
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 that ants can survive without food up to two weeks, regardless of the species.
When it comes to 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, and they can’t drown in water, but it is hard to determine how long they can live without oxygen (air), but in most research papers, this time period on average is around a few days.
How Long Do Ants Live in an Ant Farm | Ant Farm Life Span
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 for (their average lifespan). Also, it is very important to take daily care of the ants on the farm because without the care they will die very quickly.
The longevity of an ant life is not that much covered as a topic, so this article is our way to bring some information about it to the average user. If you are having an ant infestation problem, you will not get rid of it by waiting for the ants to die. If you want to get rid of them you will have to take things into your hands or call a professional ant exterminator.
Ant’s lifespan depends on two factors: type of the ant species and on their role in the colony. Ant queens have the longest lifespan and that is expected because the whole colony depends on them. Queens lay eggs and produce new ants, so it is only natural for them to live the longest.
Usually, the lifespan of the ant queen is around 5 years, but there are cases where queens have lived for a couple of decades. Worker ants can live up to a couple of years, but in most cases, they live up to only six months. Male ants have the shortest life, they die only a couple of weeks after mating with the ant queen.
Every ant species has a different lifespan, and among those who live the longest are the black garden ants who can live up to 15 years. On the other hand, there are fire ants who can live only for a couple of years.
The lifespan of an ant is highly dependable on the environment and other factors, like the availability of the food. If the worker ants can easily find food, that will keep the colony supplied, and it will grow. Also, if ants live in a habitat with fewer predators, and without human factors, they tend to live longer. If the climate is moderate without long droughts and floods, that will help ants to live a longer life as well.
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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