Metamorphosis is the process of the ant lifecycle when it changes from an immature egg to an adult, such as an abrupt transformation in body structure and cell growth.
Do Ants Go Through Metamorphosis? Ants go through a complete metamorphosis involving four stages: egg, larvae, pupa, and adult. It takes approximately 60-65 days for an egg to transform into an adult. The lifespan of the queen, worker, and male ants varies with the type of specie and environmental conditions after completing metamorphosis.
Ants have well organized reproductive system, as their life is more prone to danger, which causes them to reproduce and make colonies faster than other insects.
Do ants go through complete metamorphosis or incomplete metamorphosis?
Some insects go through incomplete metamorphosis, such as praying mantis, cockroaches, termites, and grasshoppers, while others have a complete metamorphosis process.
Insects like ants, wasps, moths, butterflies, and beetles go through the complete biological process of metamorphosis.
There are three kinds of metamorphosis in insects: ametabolism, hemimetabolism, and holometabolism. Ants go through holometabolism, which involves the four growth stages, such as egg, larvae, pupa, and adult.
Complete metamorphosis is essential because an immature and weak insect cannot survive long, and the habitat of immature ants differs from the adult one.
They cannot reproduce or mate like other insects because only the queen ant can mate with the male to produce the worker ants, and some female worker insects cannot mate or reproduce.
How do ants go through metamorphosis?
They go through metamorphosis to become an adult, and it involves four growth stages, which are explained below.
The queen ant mates with the male ant and produces an egg approximately 1 mm small and has a white sticky texture. The queen reproduces asexually and sexually to produce fertile queen and non-fertile female worker ants.
In most species, the queen takes the alternative mode of reproduction to lay reproductive and non-reproductive ants, such as the fertile eggs changing into females and the non-fertile changing into worker or male ants.
It is soft and has an oval shape, and many eggs stick to each other when placed together due to the sticky texture, which causes the queen to carry them together to the nest.
The egg can hatch in 6-14 days, depending on the type of ant and the environment provided. The queen can lay eggs and eat them when no other food is available to get some strength and nutrients.
These eggs convert into larvae, which are larger in length than the egg and have a shape like a banana. They do not have eyes or legs formed in this stage, but the hair starts growing when an egg converts into larvae.
They need a constant food supply to grow, and queen and worker ants are on duty to feed them and provide suitable conditions and environments to grow.
They need a lot of nutrients and liquid food in this stage. Some queens feed them with properly chopped solid food so they can consume and digest it easily.
Larvae also release fluid or liquid, which attracts the workers if the liquid they release is floury; otherwise, they throw it as waste outside the colony.
This is the most curial and sensitive stage for the ant metamorphosis process, as the larvae undergo a series of molting processes to grow and change the body structure.
The epidermis separates from the cuticle and makes a protective layer around the new cuticle. It takes approximately 7-12 days for larvae to convert into pupa and enter the next growing stage.
Larvae depend on the worker and queen ant to carry them from one place to another if the predators attack because they do not have eyes and legs at this stage.
Pupa is a third stage in metamorphosis, which causes the larvae to become slightly darker from the whitish shade and remove the poison it collects over time during the larvae stage.
The larvae start developing wings, eyes, and legs during their conversion to pupa, while the legs, antennas, and wings are folded with the body.
Some ant species do not undergo the pupa stage and do not spin cocoons, such as the Lasius niger ant specie does not go through pupa metamorphosis.
Some insects create cocoons as a protection cover to ensure that they reach the adult stage without any harm from predators.
It takes approximately 10 to 30 days for pups to complete this stage and enter adulthood stage. It depends on the type of the specie, as some hatch soon while others take more time to become adults.
This is the last stage of ant metamorphosis and causes the pupa to develop an exoskeleton, which prevents the further growth of the specie.
The adult insect is darker and soft, which forms a rigid body skeleton and color after a few hours. The worker ants let these new adult ants rest for a few days, then assign the duties to protect the queen and young eggs.
The female workers work for the colonies to get food and take care of the colony, while the male workers mate with the queen ant to produce more eggs and increase the number of colonies.
It takes approximately 60-65 days for these insects to complete the process of metamorphosis, as it depends on the type of specie and environmental conditions.
How long do ants live after completing metamorphosis?
All ants do not live for the same time period, as some can die soon, while others can live for decades if proper conditions and food are available.
Queens are responsible for the reproduction and building of colonies, as they mate with the male workers and take care of the eggs to increase the colonies.
Queens can live for decades, depending on the type of specie, as pharaoh queen ants can live for more than two years after completing the reproductive cycle, while the carpenter queen ants can live for more than 20 years.
Queen spends her life laying eggs and taking care of these eggs to increase the colony, while the workers are on duty to protect the queen and the eggs from predators.
Most of the worker ants are female and do not reproduce eggs. Instead, their responsibility is to serve the queen and protect the colony from intruders and predators.
It also depends on their size, as some worker insects dig tunnels, while others get food for the teammates and the queen.
Their lifespan after completing metamorphosis also depends on their specie, as some species have long-lived worker ants, and others can last for a few days.
The pharaoh worker ants can live for 8-10 weeks, while carpenter worker ants can last for years if proper weather conditions and food source is available.
Some male ants are workers, while others only mate with the queen to lay eggs. They can live a few days or weeks after mating with the queen because they feel stressed, and their reproductive organs can break while mating.
This causes the male insect to live a short life after going through a metamorphosis and entering adulthood. They do not help get food or protect the colony after completing the life cycle because their only duty is to mate.
Do environmental conditions affect the metamorphosis in ants?
Environmental conditions, such as weather, temperature, and food sources available, affect the metamorphosis process of ants and other insects.
Insects need proper weather conditions to mate and grow their eggs to reach the final stage of this reproductive cycle.
The egg and larvae cannot survive too hot or cold environments and die before entering the pupa or adult stage. High temperature has a negative effect on egg growth, while extreme cold weather negatively affects the larvae.
According to research, eggs cannot survive at temperatures greater than 32 degrees Celsius, and larvae can die at cold temperatures.
Therefore, the workers dig deeper tunnels in the soil to provide a humid and warm environment for the eggs and larvae.
Moreover, excessive rain can also cause the young ants to die soon, as eggs are likely to drown in rainwater if they build colonies above the ground in a forest.