Factors Determining an Ant’s Lifespan
Longevity of ants depends upon a number of factors such as:
- Ant species
- Ant colony caste
- Predation on the colony
- Food quality and abundance
- Access to protective shelter
It also depends on whether the ant in question is living in its natural habitat or is living in a laboratory setting.
Caste Determines Lifespan
Generally, ants have a short life cycle, but some colony members can live from as little as a few days to as long as a few decades. Probably one of the most important factors affecting lifespan is the respective ant’s caste; the queens, males, and workers that occupy the ant colony.
Male Ants – Male adults live for only a few days and die after mating with the females.
Queen Ants – Ant queens, the egg-laying members of the colony, are the most long-lived colony members and may live for multiple years.
Worker Ants – Workers, the non-reproducing female adult stage that does most of the work needed to properly support and maintain the colony, live for a few weeks to several months.
Different Species Have Different Lifespans
Another important factor affecting longevity of ants is species. For comparison, odorous house ant workers, a commonly seen ant inside homes, tend to live about two to three years, while a fire ant worker lives only about five weeks.
However, the longevity of workers is greatly affected by the availability of food and the quality of food they consume. Workers are the caste that sacrifices their well-being for the overall health and well-being of the entire colony. If food sources become scarce, workers commonly eat less than other colony members and thus ensure sufficient food resources are available for continued heartiness of colony members other than themselves.