As we speak, there are probably thousands of ants scurrying in the dirt beneath you, busy with the day-to-day activities of running a colony: finding tasty scraps to eat, building tunnels and nest structures, and, of course, looking after the eggs and young ants.
All ants come from eggs laid by the queen. These eggs can either remain unfertilized, in which case they grow into healthy males, or be fertilized to hatch into female ants.
When these eggs hatch, the baby ant – called a larva – emerges. At this stage, the tiny critter still hasn’t grown legs, resembling a pudgy little worm. Adult ants are responsible for feeding larvae multiple times a day as they grow rapidly.
Molting – the shedding of old skin - is something a larva does as its body increases in size.
Once it has eaten enough food and grown sufficiently large, the larvae pupates. It enwraps itself in a translucent cocoon and starts developing into its adult form. This can take the ant several weeks, depending mostly on its species.
As the adult ant finally exits its cocoon, it is encased in an exoskeleton that prevents it from increasing further in size. Now the ant may participate in the tasks of the colony.
Our life cycle of an ant quiz can be a worthwhile resource for studying about ant morphology and lifespans.