Ants undergo complete metamorphosis, passing through a sequence of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. An ant’s life begins as an egg. Ant eggs are soft, oval, and tiny – about the size of a period at the end of a sentence.
Not all eggs are destined to become adults – some are eaten by nest mates for extra nourishment. An egg hatches into a worm-shaped larva with no eyes or legs. Larvae are eating machines that rely on adults to provide a constant supply of food. As a result, they grow rapidly, molting between sizes.
When a larva is large enough, it metamorphoses into a pupa. This is a stage of rest and reorganization. Pupae look more like adults, but their legs and antennae are folded against their bodies. They start out whitish and gradually become darker. The pupae of some species spin a cocoon for protection, while others remain uncovered, or naked. Finally, the pupa emerges as an adult.
Young adults are often lighter in color, but darken as they age. The process of development from egg to adult can take from several weeks to months, depending on the species and the environment. For this activity, we talked about the ant life cycle and the different ants within the colony. Using pre-made cutouts, students completed the life cycle by placing them into kinetic sand: starting with the queen, moving on to a larva, continuing to a pupa, and finishing with a worker ant!