There are a select few insect species that have the most capacity for producing progeny at a given time, a trait known as insect fecundity. Although there are still many insects in the world, just a few number of them have the capacity to lay and hatch hundreds, thousands, or even millions of eggs at once. In general, fertility is higher in eusocial insects (those with the highest level of social organization) than in nonsocial insects.
AZ Animals created a list of the top five insect species that simultaneously produce the most litter after speaking with a number of pest experts. To learn more, continue reading. However, bear in mind that any fecundity figures are only approximations based on study.
African Driver Ant (Dorylus helvolus)
Research has shown that eusocial insects with driver ant fecundity are the most prolific; the African driver ant leads the pack in terms of the number of eggs a single queen can lay at once. Every 25 days, the female African driver ant can lay anywhere from three to four million eggs during her brooding period. The queen’s 15,000 ovarioles allow it to reliably produce eggs every three to four weeks over the course of five or six days.
“They have some of the largest colonies of any animal, and this amazing number is essential to their survival and growth,” stated Shawn Gleason, the founder of Bugs Encyclopedia and an accomplished entomologist with a Ph.D. from the University of Florida.
Allan Bossel, an additional specialist, concurred and offered his own insights on the driver queen. It’s vital to note that queen driver ants are among the biggest ants, reaching lengths of up to two inches. This is significant since a female eusocial insect’s size and reproduction are strongly associated. The larger the queen, the larger her litter size will be since she can produce more baby ants!
In a month, other types of driver ants will lay approximately half as many eggs as an African driver ant queen, ranging from one to two million. Ants continue to have very high fecundity above other insects, with the exception of driver ants. For instance, an army ant’s brood will produce roughly 120,000 eggs per month.
Termites (Termes bellicosus)
Termites are a nuisance to homeowners and anyone who owns a wood construction because they proliferate quickly.
A queen of the termite species, Terminus bellicosus, is known to lay as many as 30,000 eggs in a single day. Not to mention, this one termite queen will produce over 100 million eggs during her lifetime because she will live for approximately ten years regardless of outside influences. In the short run, that translates to about 25 eggs each minute. That is significantly different from certain mammals that have 22-month gestation spans!
Australian Ghost Moth (Trictena atripalpis)
The Australian ghost moth is a nonsocial insect, although it outlays other eusocial insects in terms of egg production. In Adelaide, a ghost moth was caught by a researcher who observed it depositing around 29,000 eggs, with an extra 15,000 eggs in its ovaries.
Given that the Australian ghost moth is not the largest species among ghost moths, it is plausible that larger species have even higher fecundity rates. Regretfully, no recent studies on ghost moth species with fecundities greater than those of the Australian ghost moth have been released by scientists and researchers.
Parasitoid Wasps (Kapala terminalis; Stilbula cynipiformis)
The list of bug species that simultaneously produce the most litter includes two varieties of parasitoid wasps. For a nonsocial insect, the ability to produce approximately 15,000 eggs at a time is nevertheless remarkable in both parasitoid wasp species. The majority of the time, these eggs are laid on plants. Once within the ant’s body, they attach themselves to the host and eventually kill it.
Honey Bees (Apis mellifera)
Ultimately, the eusocial queen of honey bees finishes last, while continuing to lay an astounding 2,000 eggs per day! Approximately five or six eggs can be laid every minute, contingent upon the duration of her egg-laying session. Penn State University has discovered in even more recent studies that certain queen bees can produce as many as 3,000 eggs in a single day.
The honey bee queen is successful in laying eggs for the rest of her life, despite the reduced output of a single day’s labor. A queen bee needs to lay at least 200,000 eggs during her lifetime in order to maintain the colony’s activity. so takes a lot of “busy bee” labor to lay so many eggs, considering that they only live for three to four years on average.