Average Lifespan of An Ant (And Some Interesting Facts)


Ants are the world’s smartest insects with over 250,000 brain cells. They have been known to carry up to 50 times their own weight. With such a workout, have you ever wondered, how long do ants live?

Ants aerate and turn the soil by digging tunnels thus bringing nutrients closer to the surface. This allows rainwater to percolate more readily through the soil. What a fantastic job for such small insects!


How long do ants live?

  • The Queen Ant can live up to 30 years.
  • Male ants have the shortest life expectancy of a few weeks as their main purpose is just to mate with the Queen ant, and die shortly after.
  • Sterile female ants mainly protect and maintain the colony and can live up to 3 years if they are in good condition.

An Overview of Ants

Let us have a quick overview of ants before we talk about their lifespan.

Ants have existed on this planet for 130 million years.

There are more than 13,000 known ant species are living around the world. Most ants are either red, black, or brown in color. [1]

Ants are identified by the constriction between the abdomen and thorax that looks like a narrow waist. This is what differentiates them from termites. The Ant bodies are usually protected with a hard armor called the exoskeleton.

There are 3 main types of ants living in the colony. These are the queen, female ants, and male ants. The Queen ants are the largest in the colony. Their main purpose is to lay eggs and they have no wings.

Some ant species have formed important symbiotic relationships with plants, such as acacia ants and swollen thorn acacias.

Some native ants make up the diet of several endangered animals, including the granite night lizard, the coastal horned lizard, and the arroyo toad. This has ensured the protection of this endangered species.

Ants have been known to have one of the most painful stings among insects. The bullet ant has a sting so excruciating that it is compared to that of a tarantula hawk wasp! You would not wish to encounter!

What Is the Lifespan of an Ant?

  • Queen Ant : up to 30 years
  • Worker Ant : 1 – 3 years
  • Male Ant : A few weeks after mating

The life span of ants depends on several factors such as ant species, caste, and environmental factors. The ant caste system is made up of queen ants, sterile females, and males.

Male ants main purpose is to mate with the queen and then live for just a couple of weeks then die. The sterile female ants make the largest part of the colony. They are also known as worker ants and the queen gives birth to them to collect food. They are sterile to avoid any unnecessary reproduction.

How Long Do Queen Ants Live?

Queen ants have the longest lifespan among all the other ants in the colony, living averagely from 15 to 30 years.

Ant queens from the species with a single queen per colony have a longer life expectancy than ant queens from the species with multiple queens per colony. [2]

Their main job is to ensure eggs have been fertilized. Since most of the eggs are sterile females, the queen ants need to survive for the colony to develop and progress. Sometimes eggs can become fertile females, and in this case, they usually move away and start a new colony. If well protected the queen can live for a long time.

How Long Do Fire Ants Live?

Fire ants have an average lifespan of 3 years.

Fire ant queens live averagely between 2 to 6 years. Male fire ants die a couple of days after mating with the queen.

An interesting fact of fire ants is that they mate during flight, that is in the air! The mated female will then drop to the ground, shed her wings, and find a good place to start the colony.

Fire Ant
Fire Ant

Worker ants on the other hand live for 4 to 6 weeks after emerging as adults. The life expectancy of worker ants depends largely on the size of the ant and temperature in the nest. Smaller workers live for a shorter period than the larger ones.

How Long Do Red Ants Live?

The life expectancy of minor red ant workers is 1 to 2 months, media workers is 2 to 3 months, major workers is 3 to 6 months. The queen red ants may live for 2 to 6 years.

Red ants have known to be very aggressive when provoked. They are most found in building piles of soil outdoors. They mostly feed on seeds, young plants, and small insects such as crickets. Red ants sometimes attack and capture small animals. They do this by first biting their victims and injecting them with their alkaloid venom. They use an abdominal stinger to do so.

How Long Do Ants Live Without Food?

Ants can survive without food for up to 2 weeks.

However, ants can only survive for up to 5 days without water. This means water is very important to ants.

In case there is a food shortage in the colony, the queen ant will start to ration the food portions. The queen ant will normally keep eating the same amount of food that she is used to.

The second priority is the eggs and larvae. Worker ants then start eating less and less until they either find more food or food runs out completely. If they are lucky enough to find a place to get food for the entire colony, then everything goes back to normal.


Ants are super patriotic as most colonies will not survive without a queen. She holds the key to the survival of the entire colony. These insects are admired for their resistance, durability, and toughness.

They have been wildly referred to as a nature’s miracle. Can you imagine how small they are in size but can withstand so much pressure and adversity?

An interesting fact is that there is a type of fungus that can infect ants making them zombies. This means the fungus controls the ant. Ants being clever insects usually sense this and kill the infected colony member. How amazing are these insects?

To learn more on ants, here is an interesting video I came across.

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