Ant Life Cycle
If you ever wondered why ants seem to be in so much of a hurry, it’s because they have a lot to do and a little time to do it in. Most worker ants, the type you see raiding your kitchen cabinets, only live a few months. During that period, these female ants must forage for food to feed their queen and all of larvae she produces. They must maintain colony cleanliness, disposing of their dead nest mates, and they work to expand the nest when necessary. New scientific studies show that the jobs of workers change over time. When young, the workers are foragers. When they get older, providing they don’t get stomped on or poisoned first, they take over nursery duties. The oldest workers are on garbage duty.
The life cycle of an ant colony begins when something in the summer air triggers a universal need to breed in female ants and drones. In the charmingly labeled nuptial flight day, countless winged males and virgin queens take to the air in search of love. A queen releases pheromones causing her to be swarmed by dozens of males. The not-so-lucky males that mate die instantly and fall to the ground. The fertilized queen finds some nice loose dirt, digs a modest nest, and lays thousands of eggs. As she waits for her brood to hatch, the queen lives off the protein in her body and eats her wings which she no longer needs.
Over the course of 6 to 8 weeks, the eggs grow into larvae which are similar to maggots. They have no eyes or major organs and are basically limited to wiggling and opening their mouths. The larvae are covered in tiny hairs, helping them stick together. The queen or workers feed the brood and the hairs enable numerous larvae to be moved from one place to another within the colony. At a certain point, a larva spins a silk-like cocoon around itself and pupates. During this time, the body metamorphoses into a full-grown ant. Most will grow into worker ants unless the queen decides the colony needs to expand. In this case the larvae are fed extra food which allows them to grow into princesses that will start the process all over again.