Ants live for a varying amount of time depending on a variety of factors. Some ants only live for weeks while some can live for years.
In this article, we’ll learn more about how long ants live as we discuss the following:
- Factors that affect ant lifespan
- What ants have the longest lifespan
- The ant life cycle
Factors that Affect Ant Lifespan
Ant lifespans vary due to a number of factors. These factors include different biological and environmental conditions. They are as follows: 
Caste is a big determining factor of lifespan within ant colonies. Queens live the longest among all ant castes. Following them are the workers, and then the males.
- Queens: Queen ants are the lifeline of the colony. As the most important caste, queens live the longest. They can live from a few years to decades.
- Workers: Worker ants are secondary to queens in terms of importance. Without them, queens are essentially left for dead. Some workers can live for years but most can only live for months.
- Drones: Drones are born for the sole task of mating with virgin queens. Apart from that, they don’t do much for the colony. They die shortly after mating.
Lifespan varies depending on the ant species. Some species can live for years while some only last months. Here are the lifespans of some common ant species:
|Ant Species||Average Lifespan (Workers)||Average Lifespan (Queens)|
|Carpenter Ant||0.5-7 years||10+ years|
|Fire Ant||5+ weeks||7+ years|
|Leafcutter Ant||3-7 months||20+ years|
|Pharaoh Ant||2-3 months||4-12 months|
|Pavement Ant||5 years||15-20 years|
The availability and quality of resources play a crucial role in an ant’s lifespan. Access to food, water, and suitable nesting materials can promote a longer lifespan.
Otherwise, ants may starve or dry out. Also, without proper shelter, ants may be susceptible to extreme conditions. These conditions, such as extreme heat or cold, can cause death and impact lifespan.
How Long Do Ants Live Without Water?
Water is as vital to ants as other animals. Without water, they can only live around 5 to 10 days before drying out.
How Long Do Ants Live Without Food?
Ants are quite tenacious. While they can’t live long without water, they can exist for many days without food. Depending on species and condition, ants can live from a few weeks to a hundred days without eating.
Predation and Threats
Ants face various threats from predators, parasites, and pathogens. The presence of natural enemies can reduce an ant’s lifespan. Constant predation or disease transmission can lead to premature death.
Additionally, pesticides and other human-induced hazards can also negatively impact ant lifespan.
What Ants Have the Longest Lifespans?
Ants with the longest lifespans include the black garden ant Lasius niger. A queen Lasius niger ant has the longest recorded adult life of any insect. This queen lived for more than 28 years in captivity. 
Western harvester ant queens also have estimated lifespans of 14 to 30 years.
The Ant Life Cycle
Ants go through a complete metamorphosis. Their life cycle consists of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. 
The ant life cycle begins when a female ant lays eggs. Ant eggs are soft, tiny, and oval-shaped. Fertilized eggs become female workers while unfertilized eggs become drones. That said, not all eggs hatch into adults. Some are fed to larvae for nourishment.
After a few weeks, ant eggs hatch into worm-shaped larvae. These larvae have no eyes or legs. They’re eating machines that rely on worker ants for food. They grow and molt several times as they go through different instars.
When a larva grows large enough, it metamorphoses into a pupa and enters the pupal stage. The pupa is a transitional stage between the larva and the adult ant.
During this stage, significant changes occur. Physical features like eyes, legs, and wings start to appear. In the pupal stage, ants look more like adults with folded legs and antennae.
After around 6 to 10 weeks, the fully developed adult ant emerges. This newly emerged adult is soft and pale but gradually hardens and darkens after a few hours.
The adult ant takes on the characteristics of its species. They also take on various roles within the colony such as workers or reproductives.
What Would Happen If Ants Went Extinct?
If ants were to become extinct, then that’s bad news for the whole ecosystem. Ants are very important and contribute largely to the ecosystem. They play a role in environmental diversity, productivity, and nutrient flow.
Should they disappear, many other organisms will be negatively affected. Those that directly depend on them may face extinction as well.
See this article to learn more about what might happen if ants went extinct.
Summary: How Long Do Ants Live?
To summarize, ant lifespans vary depending on caste, species, resources, and threats. Some ants like pavement ants can live for more than 5 years while fire ants only live for weeks.
As far as caste goes, queens live the longest and drones the shortest. Some queens can live for decades whereas drones die shortly after mating. Worker ants are in the middle. They can live for months and sometimes years depending on the species.