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Ant Pupae Facts: What Are They and What Do They Look Like?

Ants go through different stages in life. They start as ant eggs, which turn into ant larvae, then ant pupae, and, at last, adult ants ready to help out in the colony.

Ants carry ant pupae around because the ant pupae need a lot of care, such as feeding and cleaning. 

5 Things You Didn't Know About Ants x
5 Things You Didn't Know About Ants

This post will go into detail about what ant pupae look like, what it is and how ants take care of them.

Also read: Ants Life Cycle

What Is Ant Pupae?

Ant pupae are one of the brood stages in an ant’s life cycle. This phase comes after the ant larvae stage but before the ant turns into an adult ant.

ant pupae

This stage lasts anywhere from 6-10 weeks, depending on some different factors such as food, care, and the species of ant. 

The ant pupae are unique in that the ant will spin its own cocoon to protect itself (most ants do this – some ants don’t spin cocoons). Inside this protective casing is where an ant’s metamorphosis takes place, turning it from pupa to adult over these 6-10 weeks.

What Does Ant Pupae Look Like?

Ant pupae are ant larvae that have shed their skin and turned into immobile ant cocoons. They usually have a white color, but can look more brown the further along they are in their process, as they start to fully develop.

ant pupae looks like

This process occurs right before the ant becomes an adult ant (a fully developed, winged ant). 

The process of shedding its larval skin is called “molting” which means to grow bigger gradually by casting off your old, worn skin.

How Big Are Ant Pupae?

Ant pupae are about the size of ants. Ant pupae vary in size, but they are small enough that they can be moved by the worker ants. 

Ant pupae can eat solid food like adult worker ants and ant larvae. They also drink liquid food which they are fed by the worker ants.

How Does Ant Pupae Survive?

The ant pupae survive by being taken care of by worker ants. The pupae feed on food and water given to them by worker ants, and they’re also cleaned regularly to make sure they’re not contaminated. 

ant eggs

A new ant is “born” from the cocoon once it finishes its pupal stage and becomes an adult ant.

What Do Ant Pupae Eat?

Ants eat both plants and animals for nutrition, and the same goes for ant pupae. They feed on soft-bodied insects, such as aphids.

The workers feed the ant pupae the nutrients they need to grow. If they don’t get enough food, they won’t evolve into adult ants. This is one of many jobs that worker ants have.

Ant pupae, and ant larvae, may also feed on smaller larvae or ant eggs.

Can Ant Pupae Survive on Their Own?

No, ant pupae won’t survive on their own. They need the care of workers, as these small cocoons are immobile. If they’re not taken care of, they will either starve or dehydrate, at the end leading to death.

Some ants also need help to get out of their cocoon. If they don’t get this help, it will most likely lead to them dying, even though they’re nearly fully developed.

What Is the Ant Cocoon Made Out Of?

The ant pupae are made out of a tough, durable silk thread that protects the ant larvae inside. The ant cocoon is made from silk produced by special glands in worker ants’ abdomens (source).

The ant larvae produce this themselves when they’re ready to enter the pupae stage of their life. 

Do All Ant Pupae Live In a Cocoon?

No, not all ant pupae live in a cocoon, but most ants do. Ant larvae typically spin themselves a protective silk-like casing when they are ready to transform into adult ants.

Some ants don’t need this protection though. They will instead lay naked in the nest.

It’s unsure why some ants spin cocoons while others do. This usually depends on the species, but in a few cases both have been observed: cocoons and naked pupae in the same colony.

The large number of ants living in tropical climates makes it difficult for us to see the many stages of their life cycle because these ant species don’t form complex societies like ant species in temperate climates. 

How to Get Rid of Ant Pupae

Ant pupae will be placed in the ant nest, hence, if you want to get rid of pupae, you need to get rid of the entire colony.

If you do find some ant pupae lying around, perhaps in the middle of a colony transferring to a new nesting site, you can very easily kill it.

Now, if you want to get rid of the colony, there are many ways to do this:

  • Use natural remedies (borax, diatomaceous earth, boiling water)
  • Use chemical remedies (such as ant bait stations or insecticides)
  • Call an exterminator

If you’ve got a bigger colony on your hands, calling an exterminator is the best bet. If your home has been infested with a smaller colony, you can give it a shot with DIY methods first.

spray bottle to kill ants

Why Do Ants Carry Pupae?

The reason ant pupae (and ant eggs) are carried around by worker ants is largely due to the fact that these ant larvae and pupae would be destroyed if left alone or outside of the colony, as they can’t gather food or water themselves.

Ant eggs are carried by ant workers for other reasons as well. One reason worker ants carry ant pupae around is to protect them, so that ant pupae can develop into full-grown adults. 

If ant pupae were simply left in the nest alone, they wouldn’t develop, as they need food, water, and regular cleaning. They need the nutrients to develop their bodies, just like any other animal.

Next Step: Becoming an Ant

As stated, ants have four stages in their life: egg, larva, pupa, and adult ant. The next step after pupa is therefore becoming a fully grown ant.

Depending on the type of egg, they will develop into a number of different types:

  • Worker
  • Soldier
  • Queen
  • Male

These different types of ants all have their own tasks. Worker ants do all of the work in the colony – such as taking care of pupae and other types of the brood. Soldiers are bigger worker ants, whose primary task is to hunt or protect.

Queens lay eggs and males mate with the queen during the nuptial flight.

About Teodoro Pittman

Teodoro is a nature and animal lover. He specifically focuses on insects, such as ants, bees, and the like. In his free time, he takes care of his own ant farm, where he analyzes their behavior. Teodoro has spent the last 7 years studying the intricate behavior of these small creatures.