Like the other species of ant, the life cycle of fire ants starts with an egg, which is the first stage in the fire ants life cycle. This is followed by the larva, the pupae, and finally the adult fire ant. However, the complete life cycle of fire ant takes place on two levels: the lives of individual ants the life of the colony. Read on to know more.
Generally after one or two days following a rain, on a warm day, the fire ant workers open holes in the nest for a mating flight. The mating takes place at around 300' to 800' in the air. The male fire ants die shortly after mating, while the mated females descend to the ground, in search for a suitable place to start a new nest. After breaking off their wings, they dig the founding nest, which is a vertical tunnel 2" to 5" deep. They seal themselves to lay eggs. During this period they do not eat and instead use reserves food stored in their bodies. They can lay up to 1,500 to 1,600 eggs per day.
There are four stages in the life cycle of fire ants:
The first stage in the fire ants life cycle, the eggs are laid by the queen. Small and white in appearance, they are deposited throughout the year, but mostly during the summer months. The eggs of fire ants are of two types: unfertilized and fertilized. The unfertilized eggs winged males whose sole purpose is to mate with the queens, while the fertilized eggs become female workers. These female workers can either be winged virgin queens or worker fire ants, assigned different roles in the nest. The eggs hatch within seven to 10 days.
The fire ant larva is very soft and whitish in color and immobile. It is helpless and dependent on worker ants for food and care, but it is specialized for feeding and growing. Almost all growth occurs during this period in life cycle of fire ant. By periodic molting, or shedding of the cuticle, the larva reaches its final size.
Mature larva becomes a pupa. It is in this stage in the life cycle of fire ants that various adult structures, such as legs, or wings, become evident for the first time. The fire ant pupa stage is the middle stage between the larva and the adult. After pupating for several weeks, the adult emerges during the final molt. The worker fire ants continue to protect them until the adults emerge.
This phase in the life cycle of fire ant, the adult stage is specialized for reproduction and dispersal, like any other insect. Some of these adult fire ants are capable of reproduction while the remainders are sterile workers. Different duties are divided among different types of adults.
The total time for the complete life cycle of fire ant averages 30 days. As a well-fed queen lays to 1500 eggs per day, the population of the colony grows rapidly. Once the nest reaches its maximum capacity, the queens have to move out of the colony with a group of workers to establish new colonies close by.
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