Ants are mesmerizing little insects. They’re incredibly social, they live in colonies, and build intricate nests. These facts, however, aren’t the only curious things about ants.
The little insects are particularly long-lived. Though there are some differences between species, ants tend to spend a quite a bit of time on this planet in comparison to some other insects.
How Long Do Ants Live?
As already mentioned, there are big differences from one species to another. There are also differences in the lifespan of workers and the queen.
Worker ants live anywhere between a few months and a few years. Some of the male members of the colony are known to survive just for a few weeks. The queen, on the other hand, is the most long-lived ant. Some queens have been known to live for as many as 30 years.
The lifespan of the workers depends entirely on the availability of food. Worker ants receive less food than other members of the colony. Thus, if resources are scarce, worker ants will survive solely for a few months. Their work and their “sacrifice” will be vital for the survival of the entire colony.
Lifespan by Species
While the general rules apply to most ants, there are often differences from one species of ant to another.
Carpenter ants, for example, are quite common and they are different from other types of species, due to the fact that they have a larger body. The life cycle of carpenter ants is a relatively short one and estimated at approximately six to twelve weeks. Despite their shorter life span, carpenter ants can cause significant damage to your home, so get carpenter ant treatment as soon as you realize you have them.
Fire ants are another common species. They look pretty much like the common harvester ant, but the name tells you about one big difference. The fire ant is one of the most aggressive species and it’s known to bite. The biting of fire ants is really painful and people who have gone through the experience would never want to be bitten again.
Fire ant workers live for approximately five weeks. The queen is, once again, much more long-lived. Some fire ant queens can live for up to seven years.
Though harvester ants have some distinguishing characteristics, they are often mistaken for other ant species and even termites. Harvester ants have many sub-species and tend to be one of the most common ant species out there. Just like all other ant species mentioned so far, harvester ant workers don’t survive for long. It can vary from a few weeks to a couple of months. However, the queen is among the most long-lived ones. A red harvester ant queen can live for up to 20 years.
Harvester ants are the type of ant often used in ant farms. In this instance, the colony will not have a queen and there will be no reproduction. The ants in an ant farm will survive solely for a couple of weeks.
It’s illegal for such businesses to put queens inside ant farm because doing so could seriously disrupt ecosystems. Ants are notorious for escaping. If a queen manages to escape and create a colony in an area that’s not native to the species, there could be serious problems. The introduction of new species to any habitat can lead to a serious disruption of the natural balance in the habitat.
Other Curious Facts about Ants
Apart from the fact that they’re fairly long-lived, ants are mesmerizing creatures in several other ways.
For a start, ants have been going about their business on the planet longer than most other species. There’s some scientific evidence that ants could be older than even dinosaurs. Researchers have carried out genetic analyses of numerous ant species and they found out that the first ants came into existence approximately 110 to 130 million years ago.
This information shows just how resilient ants are. Dinosaurs died out through mass extinction. While researchers still aren’t 100 percent confident of the nature of the mass extinction, they know one thing – ants managed to survive it.
The event that led to the extinction of dinosaurs supposedly took place about 65 million years ago. This destructive event marked the downfall of dinosaurs and the rise to prominence of mammals. During this period, the propagation of ants across all parts of the world increased rapidly. Today, ants have managed to conquer just about the entire globe. Antarctica and the Arctic are the only exceptions to the undisputed reign of these little insects.
Today, the world’s population of ants is estimated to exceed 10,000,000,000,000,000. This number makes the planet’s human population of approximately seven billion look entirely insignificant. Unfortunately, many ant species today have entered the list of animals nearing extinction.
Narrow-headed ants, for example, are one of those species in danger. Native to the British Isles, they can be found today solely in the southwest parts of England. It’s listed among the most endangered species on the GB Red List. The destruction of the ant’s habitat is one of the main reasons for the seriously reduced population. Inappropriate management and extensive fires have also led to the downfall of the species.
Black-Backed Meadow Ant
Black-backed meadow ants have also seen a massive reduction in their population. This large wood ant was first recorded in the UK and, ever since, has been seen as a rare species. Today, small populations exist on cliff sites throughout Europe. Urban development and the reduction in the size of the ant’s habitat are the main reasons for its status. Unfortunately, the black-backed meadow ant has been declared completely extinct in the UK.
Finally, the dinosaur ant in Australia is another marvelous member of the species that’s currently being threatened with extinction. The name of this ant stems from the fact that it resembles closely the ant species that inhabited the planet at a time when dinosaurs were thriving.
This ant is particularly important for researchers because it can provide lots of information about the ancient species and their evolution. Unfortunately, dinosaur ants have become quite difficult to find today. Bushfires that destroy trees are one of the biggest dinosaur ant threats. Fires reduce food resources and they can also kill up to 50 percent of the workers, leaving the colony at risk.
Climate change has also contributed to the dinosaur ant population’s demise, and it has also had a profoundly negative effect on many other species throughout the world.