How long do ants live? Can ants make queens from any new larva? (Nevin)

How long do ants live? Honey Bees can make a Queen from any new Larvae - can Ants?

Dear Nevin,

Depending on the species, worker ants can live anywhere from just a few months to a few years but queen ants can live much longer. Queens of the harvester ant species Pogonomyrmex owyheei may live as long as 30 years (Porter and Jorgensen 1988)! Most queens probably live just one or a few years though, again depending on species.

Much like honey bees, most ant species can theoretically influence any female egg to develop into a queen using a number of different kinds of stimuli. Feeding larvae well enough to reach a certain size by a particular age as well as endowing eggs with large amounts of yolk can both push ants towards developing into queens. Temperature can also influence the development of eggs. Some species tend to develop into queens if reared closer to the optimal temperature for larval growth and other species require a period of chilled overwintering to develop into queens. Just like in all social insects, the mere presence of a queen may prevent additional queens from developing though as a colony's queen ages, the worker ants are likely to produce more and more queens.

However, a few species of ants have a genetic system of caste determination and are not able to produce queens from any female egg. Eggs of these species (Pogonomyrmex barbatus and P. rugosus) are predetermined to be workers or queens by the version of a particular gene that they have. Queens have to be sure to mate with at least one male with each version of the gene or they will be unable to produce both workers and queens. This type of caste determination is incredibly rare and its discovery has led to a lot of research but we still don't know exactly how or why it evolved.

Ben Rubin & the AntAsk Team

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL:

Leave a comment