How Long Do Ants Live?

We share the Earth with about 12,000 different species of ants, totaling at 1 quadrillion. So that tells us that ants are just about everywhere! With their abundance on this earth, it can make you wonder…

How long do ants live for?

It Depends…

An ants’ lifespan depends on their gender and occupation within the colony. The species of the ant is also a major factor that determines their lifespan.

Male ants tend to only live for a couple of days to a couple of weeks, and die after mating. Worker ants can live for months at a time, and could surpass a year; while the Queen ant, and her organic offsprings can live for up to 30 years. 

But what is it that determines their lifespan; is it the food? A special workout plan, perhaps? What about socialization; is any of this relevant to the length of their life? The answer is yes, and there are other interesting factors that play in to how long an ant will survive within the colony. 

Male Ants Live The Shortest Lifespan

Male ants have the shortest lifespan across all ant species, and it’s because of their mating system. Majority of male ants engage in what is called male aggregation syndrome, which is when a male ant matures, leaves the nest, mate, and unfortunately dies soon after. 

Basically, the mating that a male ant engages in is the reason for why they live only for a couple of weeks to a few months.

Male ants can also be subjected to female calling syndrome, a system where the female ant releasing a special pheromone to attract stronger male partners. You can imagine that these males tend to get into brutal battles just to mate with one female, and it’s usually a fight to the death! 

These stronger male ants tend to live up to about 116 days; but although they’re stronger, they still come up short, and end up passing after they mate. 

Worker Ants Have A Healthy Diet & Workout Regime

Since the male ants die off so quickly, the worker ants tend to be females that cannot reproduce. They are active in completing the main duties within the colony such as foraging for food, taking care of larvae, and building, maintaining, and defending the nest.

For these reasons, worker ants tend to live for a couple of months to approximately a year. Depending on the species of ant, the worker could live a strong life for one to three years

Worker ants breach the surface a lot more than male ants, so they engage in better quality sustenance and exercise to continue building and protecting. 

I’m sure you’ve seen an ant carry a chunk of bread away, I know I have; but that’s not all they eat. Outside of bread, the natural diet of a worker ant is sweet nectar produced from a plant, or sweet fruit like mango, oranges, or grapes; they like the sugar! 

Did you know that ants can lift more than 20 times their body! That’s like an eight year old picking up a car! The combination of their daily activity and eating nutritious liquid from fruit, worker ants can extend their lives significantly. 

Long Live The Queen

Royalty tends to live on for generations, and the Queen ant is no exception. 

Queen ants are the center of the colony, and have the resources to keep their lives fulfilled and satisfied. Between her permanent residence inside of the colony, her mating schedule, and motherhood, the queen ant lives on average of 30 years.

Residency

The queen lives most of her life inside the colony, which grants her protection for predators or unfortunate situations, like being stepped on.

She directs the other female ants, and develop tasks for them to succeed in for the betterment of the colony. Since she is the reigning source of life for the colony, both the male and unpregnatable female ants do everything for her.

Mating Season

A queen ant’s mating season is typically one session. She will choose several male mates, or drones, to inseminate her; and here is where it gets cool: she stores all of the fluids from the drones inside of a special sac inside of her, and keeps it alive to self-fertilize her eggs for the remainder of her life!

Motherhood

The queen ant will either replicate herself and create new and impregnable female workers for the colony, or she’ll use the stored fluid to develop son and daughter queens that are capable of reproducing. 

Ant Species

The life longevity of an ant is pretty standard across each species; but, of course they still vary based on their location. 

Let’s take a look at the habitat and lifespan of common ant species:

  • Black Garden Ants: Garden ants enjoy living where there is plenty of grass and vegetation.
  • Males – 10 weeks, females – 1-2 years, queen – up to 30 years. 
  • Ghost Ants: Love to live tropical environments
  •  Males and females – six weeks, queen – 5-9 weeks.
  • Fire Ants: Prefer wood, forest, and urban habitats
  •  Males – 5-7 months, females – up to six months, queen – up to seven years.
  • Pharaoh Ants: Flexible habitats due to their wide-range diet. 
  • Males – 5-7 weeks, females – two months, queen – 1 year.
  • Odorous House Ants: Various habitats including savannas, forests, grasslands, and suburban areas. 
  • Males – nine weeks, females –  1 year, queen – 1 year or more.

Fact: When stepped on, odorous house ants smell like rotten coconut!

  • Carpenter Ants: They prefer to live in wooded areas, and can take 3-10 months to mature.
  • Males – 10 months to 1 year; females – seven years, queen 10 years. 

Tip: If you want to keep your home ant-free, seal small cracks and openings with caulk. Take your trash out and clean the container. You can also use a non-repellent insecticide; ironically, it works better than typical repellents because it doesn’t have a scent, and the ants won’t detect it.

Conclusion

So what do you think? Ants have pretty intricate lives, although some are short-lived. With that being said, you are now an expert on the lifespan of ants!

Andrew Cunningham
Andrew Cunningham
Hello, Andrew is the co-founder and lead editor for DailyPest.

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