Ants belong to the order of Hymenoptera, along with bees, wasps and bumblebees. There are around 12,000 known species in the world, but there are probably as many as 15,000. In Quebec, more than 100 species have been recorded. Ants are social insects that live in colonies. Ants have chewing mouthparts. Their antennae have a characteristic bent shape.
Within the same colony, workers have different appearances depending on the job they do: nurses, foragers, soldiers, etc. There are small and large worker ants. The largest are the soldiers, which protect the colony. Large worker ants indicate an older colony that has been living in the same place for a while. There are also morphological differences between species.
The duration of an ant’s development from egg to adult varies depending on the species and the conditions of its living environment. Ants undergo complete metamorphosis. The larvae look like little white worms with their soft, stocky bodies. They are blind and have no feet. There are four larval stages. After each moult, the larva becomes bigger. At the end of its larval life, the insect spins a long, cylindrical, cream-coloured or beige cocoon.
Inside the cocoon, the larva becomes prepupal, taking on a white, intermediate shape with a cylindrical, immobile body. A few days later, it becomes a pupa, looking more like the future adult ant, but completely white and immobile. Colouring begins inside the cocoon. After a few days, the pale adult emerges from its protective covering, often helped by worker ants. It then takes on its normal colouring.