You probably noticed that, when the weather starts to cool down, the ants that have been plaguing your house or yard begin to disappear. But, contrary to popular belief, they don’t just die off. So, you may be wondering, how do ants survive the winter? Where do they go, and what do they do when the weather turns cold? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer these questions and more.
What You'll Learn Today
Where Do Ants Go in the Winter?
Ants have many different techniques for surviving the cold winter months. A big part of their survival is finding places to hibernate that are warm enough to keep them from freezing.
Some of these places include:
Homes and Sheds
Houses make perfect shelters for overwintering ants. Not only are they kept much warmer than any outside environment, but they also provide ample food sources.
You may have ants in the winter and not even realize it; they tend to hide in the walls and floors, only coming out to forage for food at night. Sometimes entire colonies of ants will take up residence in a house and the homeowners don’t ever realize it.
Sheds and garages also provide some shelter from the cold and snow in the winter. Though they are generally unheated and may not provide many food sources, they have plenty of hiding places for large groups of ants to get out of the weather and huddle together to keep warm.
Shelter in Nature
Most often, ants take shelter from the winter in nature. They are smart insects and have ways of finding the best, most sheltered spots to protect them from the elements.
Some ants will build their nests under large rocks. These rocks are heated by the sun throughout the day and will slowly release that heat at night, keeping the temperature of the nest warmer than the surrounding soil.
Ants may also take shelter in decaying leaves, which generate small amounts of heat as they rot. Leaves also provide some shelter from rain and snow and can provide an insulating layer against the cold.
Certain types of ants will hide under the bark on trees. The bark provides some shelter and enough insulation to protect the ants from the cold.
Many ants hibernate underground during the winter. Some winterize their existing nests and tunnels, while others create special new tunnels specifically for use during cold weather.
Sometimes, ants will seal off the entrances and exits of their tunnels to keep cold air from getting in. They may design their tunnels in such a way to preserve their body heat and make the best use of it.
Sometimes they will fill their tunnels with rotting leaves to add extra insulation and heat.
Most often, ants will simply burrow deeper. The further underground they go, the more the temperature will begin to level out; at a certain level, they will be below the frost line, where the temperature can’t dip low enough to hurt them.
They stock these tunnels with plenty of food to keep them alive so they don’t have to go out in the cold to forage. Having enough food ensures they won’t have to worry about starvation or venture away from the nest when the outside weather would threaten them.
What Do Ants Do in the Winter?
In addition to finding warm places to spend the winter, ants also engage in certain behaviors that can help increase their chances of survival. Some of these behaviors include:
As discussed above, digging their tunnels deeper underground allows the ants to stay below the frost line, where the temperature can never go low enough to kill them. Temperatures at these depths remain fairly consistent all winter long no matter what the weather is doing above ground.
While burrowing deep underground may not keep them as warm as, say, a heated house or building, it will keep them warm enough to survive.
Ants typically live in large colonies of hundreds, if not thousands. When the weather gets cold, these ants may cluster tightly together, generating enough heat to keep the group alive.
They often position their queen at the center of this cluster to ensure the survival of the colony.
Do ants hibernate? Yes, they do – during the coldest periods, ants stay in their tunnels and sleep while huddled together. They eat less than normal and their activity levels go down.
These are normal behaviors of hibernation. Hibernation allows the ants to survive these cold periods of time while using up as few resources as possible.
Check out this video to learn more about ant hibernation habits:
How Do Ants Keep From Freezing?
Ants are cold-blooded, so they need to maintain an environment well above freezing to survive. They do this using the methods above, such as clustering and winterizing their tunnels.
They seem to know they are not in danger of freezing when they burrow below the frost line or when they go into a heated building. They also receive some heat from rotting leaves or from rocks heated by the sun.
Ants are smart, strong creatures and they know what works for them. These methods help them stay warm even throughout the coldest winters.
Ants have many ways of surviving the winter. These methods include finding a warm place to hibernate, such as a heated house or tunnels built under sun-heated rocks. They also stay alive by building special tunnels below the frost line and clustering together for body heat.