The ant life cycle has four distinct and very different life stages: egg, larvae, pupae and adult. This is known as complete metamorphosis. It generally takes from several weeks to several months to complete the life cycle, depending upon the ant species and environmental factors. Eggs A female ant that successfully mates with a male ant will become a queen ant that lays eggs. Fertile queens select a sheltered place to begin a nest (colony) and begin laying eggs. Ant eggs are very small – only about a half of a millimeter in diameter. The eggs are also oval, white and transparent. Larvae After about 1-2 weeks in the egg stage, a grub-like, legless ant larvae hatches. This stage has a voracious appetite, and the adult ants spend much of their time feeding the larvae with food and liquids they digest and regurgitate. Pupae After the larvae molts and shed their skin, they change into the pupal stage. Pupae appear somewhat like adults except their legs and antennae are folded and pressed against the pupal body. Initially, ant pupae are usually white, but slowly become darker in color as they age. Depending upon the ant species, pupae may be housed in a protective cocoon. Adult Once the pupal stage is complete, the adult ant comes on the scene. At the time of emergence, the adult ant is fully grown, but darkens in color as it ages. Adult ants are one of three different colony castes; queens, workers or males. Queens are fertile females that lay all the eggs in a colony. Workers are females that do not reproduce, but do gather food; feed the larvae; and maintain and clean the nest. Workers are wingless, and it is the worker stage that is seen foraging around for food or defending the colony from intruders. The male ants are winged, but their only job is to mate with the queens during the swarming process.
Workers are monomorphic, less than 1/16” in length, colonies have multiple queens and they establish colonies by “budding” (where a subset of the colony including queens, workers and brood leave the main colony and establish at an alternative nest site).
Ghost ants have a dark head and thorax with a pale almost translucent abdomen and legs. Some ghost ants are almost entirely translucent.
The ghost ant, Tapinoma melanocephalum (Fabricius), is believed to have its origin in either “Orient” or “Afro” tropical regions. This is a tramp species introduced through human commerce into the United States and is now established in a number of locations in southern and central Florida, as well as more temperate climates such as Texas, Iowa, Oregon, and Canada. It occurs in Hawaii and the Caribbean islands and throughout other tropical regions of the world. Primarily an outdoor ant but can wander indoors.
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