A mature Ant colony will produce winged males and princesses seasonally. Eggs that have been not fertilized will develop as males called drones. Generally, eggs that have been fertilised hatch as sterile female workers, but in some case given special attention they can hatch as virgin queens Ants.
Stage 1 – Flight
The nuptial flight is the first stage of the Ant life cycle, princesses and drones fly off into the skies to find a partner to mate with.
After scattering from the colony to avoid interbreeding, virgin queen ants release a pheromone to attract male ants. Often females try and escape the pursuing male Ants ensuring only the fittest and the strongest of the male’s (up to 5-10) mate with the princess.
Sperm is then stored in an organ inside the abdomen of the queen ant. The sperm will last up to 15-25 years of fertilization, giving birth to tens of millions of ants in that time.
Soon after the mating, the drone dies and the princess becomes a queen, she then finds a spot to start her new colony.
Stage 2 – eggs
After the newly queen finds an appropriate spot to start her new colony, she will start laying eggs. In the meantime, the queen will receive nourishment from the fats on her body and the moisture that surrounds her. Her wings can fall off and can also be used as nourishment.
Stage 3 – Larva
Eggs turn into larva; they look like small fat worms and they do not have any major organs such as eyes or legs and are largely immobile. Larva can wiggle and open their mouths that the queen/worker ants will feed into. Larvae consume lots of food for their development and moulting their skin rapidly as they grow.
Stage 4 – pupa
When the larva have developed enough it will then spin a silky thread until they are cocooned. This process is called metamorphoses. During the metamorphoses period, it is a time to rest and develop, the pupa will develop into a young ant inside the cocoon and slowly darken as the Ant exoskeleton hardens.
In some species pupa will not cocoon themselves during this period and develop unprotected.