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  • Writer's picturePat & Best Ants UK Team

The Queen Ant Lifespan: A Closer Look into the Captivating Life Cycle of an Ant

Introduction to the fascinating world of ants.


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Carebara Diversa Ant Colony. Photo: ©Best Ants UK

Ants, tiny creatures that often go unnoticed in our daily lives, have a fascinating and intricate world of their own. From their highly organized societies to their impressive strength and teamwork, ants always amaze us. In this article, we will delve into the captivating life cycle of ants, with a particular focus on the queen ant and her lifespan. Get ready to discover the secrets hidden beneath the surface of the ant kingdom!


The Life Cycle of an Ant: from egg to adult

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Like all insects, ants undergo a process known as metamorphosis, which consists of four distinct stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The journey begins when a queen ant mates with a male and lays her first eggs. The first worker ants are called nanitics. And then, more eggs, these tiny, oval-shaped eggs are carefully tended to by the nanitics in the colony. Within a few weeks, the eggs hatch into larvae, which are legless and resemble small grubs. Let's have a closer look at the ant stages in the most common ant species in the UK - Lasius Niger (Black ants) ants: The eggs hatch in about 21 to 28 days into larvae. Within a further 30-35 days these larvae turn into adult ants. So from a just-laid egg to an adult worker. 6 - 8 weeks and more precisely - egg to larvae: approx. 10 -12 days, larvae to pupae: approx. 10 -14 days, pupae to worker: approx. 10 - 24 days (depending on temperature 20-26 degrees C, the warmer the faster).

During the larval stage, the ants undergo rapid growth, feeding on the food brought to them by the worker ants. As they consume this rich diet, the larvae moult several times, shedding their old skin and growing larger with each moult. Once they have reached their maximum size, the larvae enter the pupal stage, where they undergo a remarkable transformation. Inside the protective cocoon, the body of the ant undergoes a complete restructuring, eventually emerging as a fully formed adult ant.


The role of the queen ant in the colony

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Carabera Diversa Marauder Ants

The queen ant is the heart and soul of the entire ant colony. She is responsible for laying eggs and ensuring the survival of the colony. Unlike the worker ants, the queen has fully developed wings, allowing her to take flight and mate with males from other colonies. After mating, the queen sheds her wings and begins her lifelong role as an egg-laying machine.

The queen ant's primary purpose is to reproduce, and she can lay thousands of eggs throughout her lifetime. These eggs are tended to by the workers, who provide them with the necessary care and nourishment. The queen releases pheromones that communicate with the workers and regulate the overall functioning of the colony. Without a queen, the colony would eventually perish, as there would be no new ants to replace the ageing ones.


Factors Influencing the Queen Ant Lifespan

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Various factors can influence the lifespan of a queen ant. One crucial factor is the species of ant. Different ant species have varying lifespans, with some queens living for only a few months, while others can live for several years. The environment in which the queen lives also plays a significant role. Factors such as temperature, humidity, food availability, and overall stress levels can affect the queen's lifespan. Lasus Niger queen ant lifespan is up to 28 years and 9 months even in lab conditions.

Another factor to consider is the reproductive output of the queen. The more eggs she lays, the shorter her lifespan may be. This is because the energy required for egg production takes a toll on the queen's body. Additionally, the presence of predators or diseases can significantly impact the queen's lifespan. If the colony is under constant threat, the queen may not live as long as she would in a more secure environment.


The average lifespan of different ant species in the UK

In the United Kingdom, several ant species are commonly found. Each species has its own unique lifespan, which can vary significantly. Let's take a closer look at some of the most popular ant species in the UK and their average lifespans:

  1. Black Ants (Lasius niger): These small, black ants are widespread in the UK and have an average queen lifespan of around 20-25 years. They are known for their ability to establish large colonies and can be found in gardens, lawns, and even inside homes.

  2. Yellow Meadow Ants (Lasius Flavus):  These ants are commonly found in Europe, Asia, and North Africa and are known for their yellow colouration. The queen measures 7-9mm in length, males measure 3-4mm, and workers measure 2-4mm. Bring home this fascinating species of ant today and experience the wonders of nature up close.

  3. Red Ants (Myrmica rubra): Red ants are also commonly found in the UK, particularly in grassy areas and woodlands. The average lifespan of a queen red ant is approximately 10 years, making them a relatively long-lived species.

  4. Harvester Ants (Messor barbarus): Although not native to the UK, harvester ants have gained popularity among ant enthusiasts. These larger ants have an average queen lifespan of 25-30 years and are known for their impressive foraging abilities. They search for food up to 200 meters.

  5. Camponotus Ants: Camponotus ants, also known as carpenter ants, are recognized for their large size and ability to excavate wood. The average queen lifespan for these ants is around 10 years, with some species living even longer.

  6. Bullet Ants: These aggressive and often venomous ants are not native to the UK but are worthy of mention due to their fascinating characteristics. They have the distinction of delivering the most painful sting in the world of insects. Schmidt describes the pain as “pure, intense, brilliant pain. Like walking over flaming charcoal with a three-inch nail embedded in your heel”. And on top of all that awful pain lasts for 24 hours. Queen ants of these species can live for approximately 90 days only. These ants are forbidden in the UK.

Where to find and buy live queen ants in the UK

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If you are interested in starting your own ant colony, you may be wondering where to find and buy live queen ants in the UK. It is essential to ensure that you obtain ants from reputable sources to avoid harming wild populations or introducing invasive species. Several online retailers specialize in selling live queen ants and ant colonies. These retailers provide detailed information about the species they offer and tips on how to care for your ants.

Before purchasing a queen ant, research the specific legal requirements and restrictions of your region. Some species may be protected, and it is crucial to comply with any regulations in place. Additionally, be prepared to provide a suitable habitat for your ants, as they require specific conditions to thrive.


Setting up an ant farm: essentials and considerations

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Creating an ant farm can be a rewarding and educational experience. However, it is essential to set up the habitat correctly to ensure the health and well-being of your ant colony. Here are some essentials and considerations when setting up an ant farm:

  1. Choosing the right ant farm: There are various ant farm kits available on the market, ranging from simple setups to more advanced designs. Consider the size and needs of your chosen ant species when selecting a farm. Find all the info you need in our article: Ant Farm Kits Everything You Need to Know Before Making a Purchase

  2. Providing a suitable nesting area: Ants require a designated area to nest and raise their young. This must be a formicarium, which mimics their natural underground habitat. Ensure that the nesting area is spacious enough to accommodate the colony and has proper ventilation.

  3. Creating a foraging area (OUTWORLD): Ants need space to forage for food and explore. Designate an area in the ant farm where you can provide food and water sources. Experiment with different types of food to see what your ants prefer.

Creating the perfect habitat for your ant colony

To provide the best possible habitat for your ant colony, there are a few additional factors to consider:

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  1. Temperature and humidity: Different ant species have varying temperature and humidity requirements. Research the optimal conditions for your specific species and make sure to monitor and adjust these parameters as needed. We do recommend getting an Ant Farm with a temperature and humidity meter for beginner ant keepers.

  2. Lighting: Most ant species prefer a dark environment. Avoid direct sunlight on the setup. The sun can heat the nest with up to 5 degrees Celsius for only 5 minutes so lots of toxins are being accumulated in the ants' bodies due to abrupt temperature changes. This can kill a worker ant for 1-3 days and a queen ant for 3-5 days if the sun does not boil the ants alive before that. Consider using artificial lighting to provide a consistent light source for your ants.

  3. Food and water: Ants require a balanced diet to thrive. Offer a variety of food sources, including sugar water, fruits, seeds, and protein-rich foods. The food requirements depend on the ant species you are looking after, for instance, harvester ants need mixed seeds mostly and Harpegnathos Venator does not need sweets. An amazing substitution is the Best Ants UK protein jelly. This product's ingredients have been selected carefully to fulfil all the nutrients needed for a healthy colony and proper brood development. nutrition ingredients. Ensure that the food is fresh and free from contaminants (mites). Discard any remains after 2 days to prevent fungus/mould appearance.

Tips for maintaining a healthy ant colony

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Maintaining a healthy ant colony requires regular care and attention. Here are some tips to ensure the well-being of your ants:

  1. Regular feeding: Provide your ants with fresh food regularly and remove any uneaten or spoiled food to prevent mould and bacterial growth.

  2. Cleanliness: Keep the ant farm clean by removing any debris or dead ants. Regularly check the water source and clean or replace it as necessary.

  3. Observation: Take the time to observe your ants and their behaviour. This allows you to spot any signs of stress, illness, or other issues early on.


If you are passionate about ants and want to connect with other ant enthusiasts, look no further than Best Ants UK. Best Ants UK is a vibrant online community dedicated to all things ants. The platform offers a wealth of information, including ant care guides, species profiles, and forums where you can exchange knowledge and experiences with fellow ant keepers. Joining Best Ants UK allows you to expand your understanding of ants and connect with like-minded individuals who share your fascination.


Conclusion: appreciating the intricate life cycle of ants

To provide the best possible habitat for your ant colony, there are a few additional factors to consider:

Ants, with their complex societies and fascinating life cycles, are truly remarkable creatures. The queen ant, in particular, plays a vital role in the survival and success of the colony. By understanding the factors that influence the queen's lifespan and providing suitable habitat, we can appreciate and care for these incredible insects. So, next time you spot a line of ants marching across your path, take a moment to marvel at the intricate world they inhabit right beneath your feet.


We do believe you've made another step further into the Antkeeping Hobby by reading our "The Queen Ant Lifespan. Life Cycle of an Ant." article.


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