Ants behave differently in winter than higher organisms as these insects cannot survive in extreme conditions and bring changes in their bodies and behavior to accommodate the changes.
Do Ants Migrate In Winter? Ants migrate in winter due to freezing temperatures, food shortages, and hibernating behavior. Moreover, this behavior helps keep predators away and share food or space with other ants lacking resources. In addition, they can survive longer by shifting colonies to safe and warm places.
Ants hide in the winter. Their lifestyle changes with changes in external weather, and they cannot navigate the environment as they do before the arrival of cold weather.
Why do ants migrate in winter?
Ants make nests to spend their lives because nests protect them from predator attacks. They can hide deep under the ground to avoid contact with the invaders and live in compartments.
They do not leave nests until they detect threats and discomfort due to flooding or cold weather. Accordingly, they migrate to safe places as they cannot tolerate low temperatures.
Moreover, they need warm temperatures to live and reproduce, and their activities slow down at low temperatures due to lower metabolic rates.
They have to migrate indoors and build new nests in warm places to avoid the risk of death due to freezing temperatures. They face problems in locating food sources during winter.
Everything gets covered in snow during winter, making it challenging for these insects to navigate and leave their nests because it can be deadly for these tiny creatures.
In addition, they migrate from the top to bottom region of the nests when they hibernate during a seasonal change and slow down their activities to store energy.
They can also migrate to share resources with other colonies of the same species to ensure their survival because some ants build connected nests and merge during winter.
Additionally, it allows them to share the stored food and water resources with their fellows and live until winter ends and the weather gets warmer.
They do not migrate long distances away from their nests, like birds, and only build a new nest at a small distance from their old nest.
So, you can see them migrating to a warmer place with plenty of food resources to spend winters and come out of their new nests when the weather gets slightly warmer.
How do ants migrate in winter?
Changing environmental conditions significantly impact the behavior of ants as they remain busy doing nest activities during summer and hide at safe places in winter.
It happens due to less tolerance to extremely low temperatures, which can put an ant colony into trouble as they cannot find fruits, flowers, vegetables, and insects for survival.
Accordingly, the workers look for a warm and safe place in close proximity or peripheral areas to shift their colonies in early winter. They can freeze in late winter if they leave nests.
The foragers get back to the colony after searching for a suitable location for building a new nest. A large group of nest builders go to the new location and make a space to accommodate the colony.
After that, they carry babies and larvae on their bodies and shift them to a new location. The queens and drones also migrate to a new location by becoming a part of the trail.
In addition, the workers also haul stored food and water onto their backs and fix them within their teeth while transferring them to the newly built nest.
This shifting of colonies from queens to larvae takes a lot of time and effort from workers or the nest builders because they have to work hard to find the location and build a new nest.
Where do ants migrate in winter?
Ants shift their colonies in winter, but they do not move several miles away from their nests and look for the nearest locations that are wet and warm and provide a food source for these insects.
Some of these insects can hide deep inside their nests because the lower areas of the nest are usually warmer than the upper areas, so they migrate deep into the soil.
Foragers do not leave their nests and restrict their activities to underground tunnels so that they do not suffer from exposure to cold air. They seal openings and go deeper into the tunnels.
They also look for warmer places indoors and hide under the rocks or tree barks because people do not disturb rocks, and they reproduce and propagate.
In addition, they can also enter cracks and holes in the walls, window sills, attic, basement, cabinets, and other narrow spaces within the house.
These insects also travel into house foundations to keep their body temperature stable, and the cold air cannot touch their bodies.
At what temperature do ants hibernate?
Ants hibernate in winter or enter a diapause stage when their activity rate decreases due to a slower metabolic rate and lesser energy.
They feel deprived of food in winter, leading to a lack of energy and lower potential to work. So, they hibernate at warmer places when the temperature drops to freezing temperature.
They enter a diapause stage when the external temperatures reach almost 10 to 12 degrees Celsius (50 to 54 degrees Fahrenheit), and these insects feel discomfort due to cold breeze.
Moreover, these hibernation and diapause stages last for a short time, as they return to their normal lives when the weather gets back to normal or slightly warmer.
Accordingly, you can see many outdoor species of these insects living in the backyard, forming long trails, and coming indoors. Pavement ants get inside tiny holes or cracks and hide themselves.
Furthermore, American field, Argentine, acrobat, carpenter, and black garden ants living in underground soil nests also migrate to deeper tunnels or hide inside buildings during hibernation.
How long do ants take to migrate in winter?
The migration process in ants takes a lot of time because their whole colonies shift to a warm and safe place several meters away from their nest or deep into the old nest.
The total time duration required for the migration depends on the colony’s size, as bigger ones take more time, which can be a few days to a week.
However, the smaller colonies can quickly migrate to a new nest along with their queens, larvae, and male members.
The distance of a new nest from an old one also matters as they take less time to dig deeper into the ground and reach the depth of an old nest by building new tunnels.
In contrast, they need more time to shift their colonies to a new place indoors as they have to move their members and store resources of food and water.
Additionally, the stored amount of food, water, and other resources, like nesting material, also contribute to total migration time as they take more time to transfer a bulk of resources.
So, migration of ant colonies is not a one-day process because they have to locate a new location and then shift slowly when the workers have to make several trips back to their nests.