The life cycle of an ant is broken into four distinct and different life stages that take place during its metamorphosis: egg, larvae, pupae and adult. This cycle takes from several weeks to several months, depending upon the ant species as well as environmental factors.
Ant Eggs and Larvae
Any female ant that successfully mates with a male ant can become a queen ant that is able to lays eggs. A fertile queen is selected and sheltered in a place to begin a nest (colony). This is where she begins laying eggs. The eggs are oval, white and transparent, and only about a half of a millimeter in diameter. The egg stage lasts for about 1-2 weeks. After this amount of time passes, a grub-like, leg-less, ant larvae hatches. The larvae have a voracious appetite. The adult ants spend much of their time feeding the larvae food and liquids that they digest and regurgitate.
The ants enter into the pupal stage once the larvae molt and shed their skins. These pupae look similar to adults except their legs and antennae are folded and pressed against their bodies. They may be housed in a protective cocoon, depending on the species of the ant. The pupae are white at first and slowly as they age become darker in color.
After the pupal stage is complete, the adult ant emerges. The adult ant is fully grown but its color darkens as it ages. The colony is divided into three different castes: queens, workers, or males. The queens are chosen because they are the most fertile females that lay all the eggs in a colony. Workers are females that do not reproduce. These workers gather food, feed the larvae, and maintain and clean the nest. They are also wingless. These are the types of ants that are seen foraging for food or defending the colony from intruders. Male ants are winged. Their only job is to mate with the queens during the swarming process.
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