The larva is the base zerg unit from which all other units and, ultimately, buildings are created.
Larvae are the closest creatures to the original zerg insectoids. Although their size and toughness were greatly boosted by the xel'naga during their experiments, they still possess the two traits that originally intrigued the ancient masters—genetic versatility and psychic sensitivity.
Larvae were the first zerg strain ever encountered by the terrans of the Koprulu Sector. Around 2487, larvae were discovered on a number of fringe worlds. These worlds were depopulated by "cholera" and the specimens shipped to a Confederate science facility on Vyctor 5, only to be discovered by the Sons of Korhal nearly five years later.
Maggot-like, larvae often make a sucking sound from their tail section, akin to someone's boot stuck in mud. Physically, they have a segmented, multilegged body, trailing a mucous-like substance behind them and a complex array of internal organs. Every segment of the larva's body contains all the required organs to ensure its survival. Such a trait, combined with near instant wound clotting, allows larvae to function and morph normally even if cut in half. Its small twin antennae probe the air around it. Diminutive larvae exist within the bloodstream of the swarm host, where they feed on damaged tissue, sealing wounds, and destroying foreign matter. They can also head for the creature's incubator to be evolved into locusts.
The need to survive has played a role in the evolution of the larva's carapace. Its plates have turned into a hard, dense material that is not easily scratched, let alone punctured, and is immune to small arms fire. Dominion scientists suspect that the carapace served as a template for enhancements to the ultralisk.
Similarities exist between a larva's pluripotent cellular structures and terran embryonic stem cells. Project Blackstone researchers attempted to find a way to both arrest the obligatory asymmetric replication (the astounding healing factor) of the zerg, and adapt it (in some measure) for Dominion soldiers.
Within a larva's DNA are countless sequences, carrying billions of patterns and nearly infinite possible genetic combinations, and they contain within them the genetic code for all other zerg breeds. When a new breed of zerg is needed, an individual larva will enter a pupal state and begin replicating the DNA of one specific zerg breed at an astounding rate. After a short gestation period, the new mature zerg minion hatches. A young hive will only have the genetic code for the most basic of zerg breeds, such as the drone, but as it grows and develops new structures, its library of genetic strains is expanded. With a command from the Overmind, cerebrate, or overlord, the larva will enter a pupal state and begin the metamorphosis into whichever breed is required by the hive. The inner layer of the creature's skin is populated with receptor cells, and once a morph command is issued, the larva's organs are ejected, forming a hard egg-like cocoon, and its tissues are instantly reconfigured into the desired strain through a brief pupation period.
Larvae are automatically produced by a hatchery, lair, or hive over time; up to a maximum of three at any one time per building. Larvae may only be ordered to morph into other units. Larvae automatically "wander" near the building that spawned them. Larvae have relatively high armor and resilience despite having few hit points. They will automatically die if the creep underneath them dissipates. Canceling an evolution will also kill the larva.
Larvae may still be morphed into drones even if the rest of the base, or army, is destroyed. Given time and enemy inactivity, a few larvae can rebuild a zerg force.
Concept art for larvae appears for StarCraft: Ghost. As seen, the larva appears larger and more adept at battle, carrying a likeness to a Hydralisk, albeit missing arms.
If multiple hatcheries are selected, pressing the "S" hotkey will select all of the available larvae at all the selected hatcheries. The player must press a hotkey (or select a morph icon) once for each unit they wish to build.
- A larva can produce a large variety of units: drone, overlord, zergling, roach, corruptor, mutalisk, hydralisk, swarm host, viper, infestor, and ultralisk.
- However, there are some zerg units that are not directly produced by the morphing of larvae: queen, baneling, overseer, brood lord, lurker, ravager as well as spawned units such as broodlings, changelings, locusts, and infested terrans.
Queens can target a hatchery/lair/hive, causing it to eventually spawn four larvae. These join any already-present larvae. The larva-producing structure will not naturally produce any more larvae until the total falls below three. The larva count for any given hatchery/lair/hive cannot exceed nineteen, no matter how many times spawn larva is cast.
- +1 bonus to armor per level for zerg ground units.
The ability to spawn additional larvae can indirectly help the zerg economy, as this enables them to produce a high number of drones (or a high number of combat units, or a mix of both).
The larva only underwent a single revision during development, in order to make it resemble the portrait model.