Any changes in the environmental temperature bring modifications in the lifestyle of ants as these exothermic organisms cannot tolerate an extremely cold and freezing environment.
Can Ants Freeze To Death? Ants can freeze to death, but it rarely occurs when you expose them to freezing temperatures for a long time as their soft bodies cannot resist it for longer. They can lose their life below 52 degrees Fahrenheit when they have no support from their colony. However, their bodies adapt to changing temperatures by halting the developmental processes and slowing down their activities. They can even survive for 3 to 5 days in cold refrigerators.
Many insects and animals hibernate during cold weather, and the same happens with ants that enter a diapause stage and restrict their activities.
Furthermore, it helps them improve their lifespan and decreases the risk of freezing to death which can occur for many reasons.
Can ants survive at low temperatures?
Ants are cold-blooded, and their body temperature changes with the external environment.
However, they have developed multiple strategies to cope with the changing environment. They usually do not die when the temperature gets lower but bring changes in their lifestyle.
You can see them bound to their nest and coming out of it rarely during winters as they cannot tolerate a cold environment below a certain limit.
Furthermore, they risk death when they expose their bodies to a freezing temperature for a prolonged duration.
So, they can survive in a cold environment if exposed for a particular time, but they cannot resist for a long time.
Why do ants freeze to death?
Death in ants due to freezing is not so common, but it occurs in rare cases when they are not ready to deal with low temperatures and are exposed to them for a long time.
No support from the colony
The ants can freeze to death when they are lost and reach far from their territory. A colony helps maintain warmth by keeping a large number of organisms together.
However, a single insect can die due to no support from the colony, as their bodies cannot retain warm temperatures when the external weather is cold.
Shortage of food resources
They can store food as glycogen under the skin layers during warm weather or keep it inside the nest to be used during hibernation.
They can predict the changes in weather and begin to do some measures like food storage to keep themselves alive during winters.
They cannot go out of their nest for food collection in cold weather, so they rely on the stored food. However, it has to end at some point, and they have to come out of their nest due to food shortages.
So, exposure to cold weather can sometimes freeze their soft bodies and lead to death.
Prolonged exposure to cold temperature
They can die when the temperature is lower than almost 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. They cannot resist cold surroundings for a longer duration.
Moreover, some metabolic and developmental changes are seen in these insects when they face a cold environment, and these processes slow down.
However, the body system cannot work for longer at a slow process as they have to metabolize and show developmental changes.
So, these can die if their surroundings remain cold for more than their tolerance capacity.
Sudden change in weather
Sometimes, the weather changes suddenly when they have no time to prepare themselves for the situation and do not store any food to survive in the winter.
Accordingly, they have to prepare a nest deep in the soil or at any other suitable place to maintain warmth. Moreover, they have to face many problems when it rains, or the temperature gets lower.
Therefore, they can die during a snowfall when they have not made a secure nest to retain heat in the colony.
How do ants survive in winter?
Ants develop many strategies to survive in winters to avoid freezing, like bringing alterations in their body, preventing unnecessary movements, or binding themselves to a single spot.
Adjustment of body temperature
They exchange heat with the environment to maintain body temperature as they cannot regulate it. However, they can create their microenvironment by getting closer to the queen.
When the whole colony aggregates together, it provides warmth naturally and blocks the cold air from passing through them.
Therefore, this strategic movement keeps their bodies warm and makes them resistant to freezing.
Slow down metabolic activities
The metabolic activities in the insects slow down, and they become less active. They enter a dormancy or hibernation stage when the internal processes and movement get slower.
They need less energy when immobilized and are involved in lesser activities like foraging for food and hunting for insects.
Moreover, they avoid consuming food, and their developmental processes halt. The queen ant avoids laying eggs as it can demand food for growth and survival.
Migrate to warm areas
They move deep into the soil where the air elements cannot reach them, and the temperature remains consistent. In addition, it provides warmth to their bodies because they are not directly exposed to the cold air.
Moreover, they can go almost 3 to 4 feet under the ground and make a safe zone there. Similarly, they can build a nest above ground, like under the rocks where the temperature is higher.
You can see an ant colony moving inside houses or in the barks of trees, where they can efficiently maintain their body temperature due to warmth.
Furthermore, the well-insulated nets covered with pine needles form air pockets and avoid freezing these tiny creatures.
Production of glycerol
Many of their species can produce glycerol in their body or convert the fluids into glycerol that works as an anti-freezing agent.
Moreover, the defense system of these tiny creatures allows them to protect themselves from the cold environment.
Extremely low temperatures can form ice crystals in the bodies that can freeze these insects. In the same way, it can also cause damage to tissues in cold conditions or frigid air.
So, glycerol prevents the formation of ice crystals, avoids tissue damage, and reduces the risk of death.
Storage of sugar
Storage of the food resources in the nest and within bodies as glycogen is another strategy of ants to protect themselves from freezing during winter.
When they have enough food to eat, they do not have to expose themselves to cold air and forage for food that improves their lifespan.
So, they consume sweet food items in the warm season and store the sugar as glycogen or fat in their bodies that can be easily converted into energy later.
What’s the coldest temperature an ant can survive?
Ants have better adaptations to changing temperatures, but they sometimes feel helpless when the cold environment lasts longer.
They usually do not die and enter a diapause state when all the processes halt and reduce their vulnerability to freezing.
The temperature drops to 72 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit in cold weather. However, the ants need nearly 76 to 94 degrees Fahrenheit to remain active.
In addition, they can enter a freezing stage when the external temperature reduces to 50 to 52 degrees Fahrenheit. This state can lead to death if they remain in this condition for too long.
They prefer to hide when the temperature reaches below 70 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit and become inactive, returning to their life when their surroundings get normal.
Do ants remain active in winter?
The ants cannot remain active in cold weather as their bodies cannot regulate the temperature. Therefore, they have to reduce their activities and enter a diapause stage to resist the changes due to cold air.
Moreover, they can die if they continue their activities like food collection because the cold environment can be proved deadly for them.
They move to warm areas or slow down their activities and need lesser food accordingly as they do not require energy to perform the tasks.
However, they can return to normal life and become active when their surroundings get warm and favorable for survival.
How long can ants survive in the refrigerator?
Some ants have adapted to cold environments and can efficiently survive even in the refrigerator. They can enter the fridge for some food like frozen meat.
The carpenter and harvester ants are primarily seen in the refrigerator and can survive for almost 10 to 15 days.
When it gets zero degrees Fahrenheit, only 1 to 2 days are enough for the death of these insects.
So, they can live in the refrigerator for only 10 to 15 days, but this time can reduce to almost 1 to 2 days when the temperature lowers.
What happens if you freeze an ant?
If you freeze an ant, it cannot release pheromones or build a scent trail to inform other fellows about the danger. All of their systems become inactive at low temperatures, including their senses.
Some people have tried to freeze an ant, which leads to death when they are kept in the refrigerator for many days.
There are a few chances of the frozen ants returning back to life if they have spent multiple days in the refrigerator.
Moreover, you can also consider a decrease in survival rate with each passing day when they are in the refrigerator.