If you've noticed an ant infestation in or near your home, you might be hoping that you can outlive them.
This is a tempting thought because you wouldn't have to invest in an exterminator or any pest control supplies.
Unfortunately, ants can live a long time...
...A really, really long time.
There are a lot of factors that contribute to the overall lifespan of an ant, including its species and roll in the colony.
Below is some useful information to determine how long your uninvited visitors might be staying if you don't act soon.
What Are Ants?
Ants are insects that live in enormous colonies and rely on the careful structure of their colony for survival.
Each colony always has a queen who controls the group's reproduction, but some larger ant colonies have two or three ant queens. The majority of ants are sterile females who serve as workers and soldiers to build, maintain, and protect the colony.
Because ants are insects, their bodies are divided into three segments: the head, the abdomen, and the thorax.
They also have a pair of antennae on their head and large compound eyes. Soldiers might have large mandibles as well for defense.
Want to skip all this research and just hire a decent exterminator for your ant problem?
Where Do Ants Live?
There is no one answer to this question.
There are over 1,000 species of ants within North America alone, and their living space changes on the ants' diet and their social structure.
Some of the most common places for ants to live include:
- In dirt mounds with subterranean colonies
- In the wood of structures and logs (carpenter ants)
- Underneath sidewalk pavement
- In large trees with access to fungus and honeydew
It's also not uncommon to find ants living in your home or other human buildings like restaurants.
This is because they are attracted to the abundant food resources, which include access to the sugars and proteins they need to sustain a large colony.
How Long Do Ants Live?
There is no "one size fits all" answer for the lifespan of an ant.
Each species has a different average time they can live, and even that varies based on a lot of factors.
Below is a list of some of the most common ant species in the United States and their projected lifespans as determined by entomologists and professionals.
- Carpenter ants live for about 7-10 years
- Black garden ants live for up to 15 years
- Pharaoh ants can survive between 4-12 years
- Thief ants live for up to 1 year
- Red ant (fire ants) can live from 30 days (workers) to up to 6 years (queen fire ant)
Ants will go to ruthless measures to survive, especially for the sake of the colony.
Watch this queen ant enslave another colony to survive:
Does The Queen Ant Live Longer?
Just as different species of ants live longer, so too do the different castes.
In almost every ant species, the queen lives the longest out of all of them.
Some queens can live to be over 15 years old, while some have even been recorded as 28!
Workers and soldiers also tend to be long-lived. In some colonies, these two groups can survive up to 7 years serving their society through loyal service.
The shortest lived caste is the males. As mentioned earlier, most ants are actually sterile females. The queens do all of the reproducing for most species except for a few outliers like thief ants.
Male ants live long enough to reproduce with a queen and then die. Each queen will produce a few males every so often so they can collect sperm to create the next batch of workers and soldiers.
This means that male ants may only live for several weeks, mate once, and then die.
Availability of Food Affects Lifespan of Ants
How long worker ants will live greatly depends on their available food sources.
The preferred diet of any one ant colony varies between sweet type foods ("sugar ants") and protein rich foods ("grease ants").
If food sources become scarce, worker ants will sacrifice themselves for the rest of the colony. Without a food source, they will eat less so that the rest of the colony will have food to eat.
This means that eliminating ant food source can limit the amount of worker ants around, but it also means that the colony will continue to operate for quite a while, especially the queen.
If you have an ant problem and you're trying to get rid of them, I'd recommend using a mixture of granules, traps, and gels in order to ensure you target the diet of the ant infestation you have.
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Final Thoughts on Ant and Their Lifespan
If you have an ant problem, they may be around a lot longer than you think.
It's almost impossible to wait them out, especially since some kinds can live longer than your pets.
When struggling with an ant infestation, it would be best to look into pest control methods or call a professional exterminator to get the ants before they get you.