We’re often bothered by ant infestations and wonder — how long will these pesky insects stick around? 

Many factors contribute to an ant’s life span, including its species and caste. Read on below to learn all about the life spans of ants.

What Are Ants?

Ants are insects that live in large colonies and rely on the rigid structures of these colonies for survival.

Each colony has a queen that controls the group’s reproduction, and some larger ant colonies have two or three queens.

Watch this video to see how a worker from one colony tricks another colony into letting her take over as queen:

Most ants are sterile females that 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 pairs of antennae on their heads and large compound eyes. Soldiers might have large mandibles as well for defense.

Where Do Ants Live?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Over 1,000 species of ants inhabit North America alone, and their living spaces vary according to their diets and social structures.

Some of the most common places for ants to live include:

  • In dirt mounds with subterranean colonies
  • In large trees with access to fungus and honeydew
  • In the wood of structures and logs (carpenter ants)
  • Underneath sidewalks

It’s also not uncommon to find ants living in your home or other buildings, such as restaurants. This is because they’re attracted to abundant food resources, which include access to the sugars and proteins they need to sustain a large colony.

Ant Castes and Life Spans

Ant colonies have a complex social structure, with each member playing a specific role. 

Different castes generally have different life spans:

  • Queens: Live up to 15 years or more. A colony can’t survive without its queen or queens.
  • Males: Life span is a few weeks, and their purpose is to mate with queens.
  • Workers (females): Depending on food availability, workers can live from a few months to a year. Workers take care of the queen, build and maintain the nest, forage for food, and defend the colony.

The queen ant can outlive many generations of worker ants. A well-fed colony with one or more queens may survive for over a decade.

How Long Different Ant Species Live

There are thousands of ant species with variances in average lifespans:

  • Carpenter ant queens live for around seven to 10 years
  • Black garden ants live from one to two years (workers) up to 28 years (queens)
  • Pharaoh ant queens survive between four and 12 months
  • Thief ants live for several months (workers) to a year (queens)
  • Red ants (fire ants) can live from 30 days (workers) to six years (queens)
ant on a tree
Image credit: Canva

Across species, queens live the longest while workers live for a considerably shorter time, and males die shortly after mating. Factors impacting life spans range from genetics to food availability and hazards in and around the nest.

Tips for Getting Rid of Ants

While some ants live a surprisingly long time, you don’t have to resign yourself to an infestation. Here are pro tips to effectively get rid of ants:

  • Use baits and traps that attract different types of ants
  • Try combining sprays, granules, and indoor/outdoor baits
  • Disrupt the scent trails ants use to navigate back to the nest
  • Seal cracks, crevices, and other entry points into your home
  • Keep your kitchen and bathrooms spotless and dry to make food and water sources unavailable

With vigilance and integrated pest control methods, you can eliminate ants and prevent future invasions. Act promptly before they establish large, resilient colonies.

You may also find our article rating the best ant killer products helpful in dealing with your ant problem. If your DIY approach doesn’t work, it may be time to contact a professional pest control expert.

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FAQs About the Life Span of Ants

How long do worker ants typically live?

Worker ants — the females that forage for food — usually have a life span ranging from a few weeks to several months, depending on the species.

Do queen ants have a longer life span than worker ants?

Yes, queen ants have significantly longer life spans compared to worker ants. Some queen ants can live for several years or even decades, continuously laying eggs to sustain the colony.

What factors influence the life span of ants?

Factors including the species, environmental conditions, and the role of the ant within the colony influence the life span of ants. Queen ants, for example, live longer than worker ants.

Are there ant species with particularly short or long life spans?

Ant species vary widely in life span. Some tropical species have shorter life spans, while certain queen ants, like those of the black garden ant species, can live for nearly 30 years.

How does the presence of predators or environmental threats impact ant lifespans?

The presence of predators, environmental stressors, and the overall health of the colony can influence ant life spans. External threats may shorten the life span of individual ants or affect the colony’s longevity.

Editorial Contributors
avatar for Jordan Tyler Quinn Farkas

Jordan Tyler Quinn Farkas

Expert Writer & Reviewer

Jordan Tyler Quinn Farkas is a globetrotting content writer hailing from the USA. With a passion for pest control, he brings a unique perspective to his writing from his early years working for one of the largest pest control companies in America. Throughout his early 20s, Jordan gained valuable experience and knowledge in the field, tackling pest infestations head-on and ensuring the well-being of countless homes.

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