Carpenter Ant Life Cycle

Carpenter Ant Larva

Larva is the name that scientists use for immature carpenter ants. The plural of larva is larvae. Ant larvae look like grubs.

Ant workers care for the eggs that the queen produces. The workers clean the eggs so that bacteria do not harm the developing ants. When the eggs hatch, the larvae can move, but they are unable to walk or to care for themselves.

In the colonies of many ant species, the queen stops producing eggs in the late summer. However, in some species of carpenter ants, including Camponotus herculeanus (L.), the queen produces eggs in the fall. When these eggs hatch, the larvae receive food then they hibernate with the rest of the colony until spring.

Developing larvae require protein for their nourishment. To feed them, foraging ant workers usually gather insects. Ant larvae also eat seeds, and even ant eggs that have been produced in their colony. Some of the larvae also receive additional nutrients from workers. These special nutrients help the larvae develop into winged male and female reproductive ants.

Scientists have found that larvae produce enzymes that dissolve solid food and turn it into liquid. Since adult ants can only digest liquids, workers give pieces of solid food to the larvae. When the food has become liquid, the workers take it back from the larvae. The workers share the liquefied food with the other ants in the colony.

When carpenter ant larvae are ready to change into adult ants, they spin cocoons. While they are changing into adults, they are called pupae. This stage of the life cycle is called the pupa stage. After they have changed into adults, they come out of their cocoon. Worker ants help them emerge from their cocoons.