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When Are Ants Most Active? (Are They Nocturnal or Diurnal?)

You may wonder, when are ants most active?

It turns out that it depends on the species of ant – some ants are nocturnal (active at night), others are diurnal (active during the day) and still others are cathemeral (both). 

Most ants are also more active during the summer, while they go into a “hibernation mode” during the winter months.

5 Things You Didn't Know About Ants x
5 Things You Didn't Know About Ants

Read on to learn more about when ants are most active.

When Are Ants Most Active?

Ants are both active during the day and night. This depends on a number of factors: what type of ant it is, the climate, availability of food sources, where they are nesting, and more. 

Some ants are nocturnal which means they are most active at night while others are diurnal meaning they are most active during the day.

One interesting fact is that ants are more active during the day in colder climates since it’s warmer during the day. In hot climates, ants are more active at night. 

Because of this, nocturnal ant species are usually found in tropical areas, where nocturnality allows them to avoid the high temperatures of the day. 

fire ants crawling on the tree

Diurnal ants, on the other hand, are mostly located in temperate regions where they can forage during warm days and return home before it gets cold.

It is possible for an individual colony to have both nocturnal and diurnal workers. This occurs when certain tasks need to be completed when it is dark out or if food sources are available only during the day.

Day Ants and Night Ants

There are both ants most active during the day, as well as ants that are most active during the night, but the thing about ants is: they are active all day.

Ants take power naps throughout the day. This makes it so there are always ants on duty. Day ants (diurnal ants) are simply more active at night, while night ants (nocturnal ants) show more signs of activity at night.

The main difference between the two (diurnal and nocturnal) is when and how they find food. Nocturnal ants will mostly forage at night, while diurnal ants will look for food during the day.

ants foraging at night

Are Ants Nocturnal?

Yes, some ants are nocturnal, but it very much depends on the species. Nocturnal ants will forage during the night, as most ants will be active at this time. 

The majority of ants are diurnal, meaning that they are most active during the day, but there are many nocturnal and cathemeral ant species as well.

It is important to keep in mind that nocturnal ants are not only active during the night, but are also active during the day – their activity levels merely slow down.

red ant at night

Do Ants Work at Night?

Yes, ants do work at night. They have various continuous tasks that need to be completed, in order to keep the nest and colony healthy and functioning. This includes tasks such as cleaning, caring for broods, and digging out tunnels.

Nocturnal ants will also collect food during the night.

What Ants Are Nocturnal?

Most ants that invade our homes are nocturnal. This is because they can exit their nests while predators are asleep (humans). They can then, undisturbed, gather food and other resources.

Some examples of nocturnal ant species are: 

  • Carpenter ants
  • Pavement ants
  • Black Crazy Ants
alone carpenter ant crawling on the woods

Are Ants Diurnal?

Most ants are diurnal, meaning, they’re active during the day, but ants are not innately diurnal or nocturnal[1]. Like most insects, their activity is dictated by the temperature and humidity of their environment.

Ants are very capable of adapting to their environment and circumstances.

Ants can be crepuscular (active at dusk and dawn) as well as active during the day depending on conditions such as time of year, weather, availability of food resources, and nesting habits.

Both diurnal and nocturnal ants are present in all climates[2]. The majority of ant species are active during the day, regardless of their location on Earth. Some are active at night depending on local conditions such as temperature or food availability. 

For example, some desert ants are only active after rainfall when temperatures are cool enough for them to stay out hunting prey longer; they retreat underground again once it gets too hot for comfort. 

Others are more adapted to warm weather environments and cannot survive in cooler regions where there is not much suitable food available (e.g., meat).

ants working at night

What Ants Are Diurnal?

Most ants are active during the day. They will search for food, communicate with each other, and protect their colony from predators like birds and wasps.

There are several species of ant that are nocturnal, however, including:

  • Argentine ants
  • Bicolored carpenter ants
  • Fire ants
carpenter ants active at night

Cathemeral Ants (Active Night and Day)

Cathemeral means to be active both during night and day and is defined as: 

“Applied to an activity pattern in which an animal is neither prescriptively nocturnal, nor diurnal, nor crepuscular, but irregularly active at any time of night or day, according to prevailing circumstances.”

In other words: their main activities can be at all hours of the day, but it depends on the circumstances.

Some ants do show this type of behavior, such as the odorous house ant. These ants will forage at all times of the day, spread evenly.

This behavior lets the ants take advantage of the daytime in colder months, as well as nighttime during warmer months. Their main activities are spread out according to the circumstances, meaning, it depends on the day.

ant egg carried by multiple worker ants

Do Ants Sleep?

Ants do sleep, but they’re more like rest phases. Ants don’t sleep for long periods of time. Instead, they take shorter naps throughout the day. 

They all sleep at different times of the day, to make sure there are always workers awake to serve the queen and colony.

If all ants went to sleep at the same time, and if they slept through the night, there would be no one left to take care of the brood, to keep the colony clean, or to gather food.

Nocturnal ants sleep more during the day, while they are more active at night – but some of the ants in the colony will also sleep at various times during the night.

The same goes for day ants (diurnal ants). They will take most of their naps during the night, but some of them will also sleep during the day.

ant hybernating

Ants will typically sleep for about 4-5 hours a day (some may require up to 12 hours of sleep), spread out across up to 250 naps.

A study shows that ants that don’t get any sleep will live a shorter life. Just as with humans, sleep is very important for ants, in order to keep up their active lifestyle.

They will sleep in groups, but they don’t do this because of warmth, but simply due to a natural instinct to always keep in groups.

Related: Do ants sleep?

Conclusion

Ants are neither completely nocturnal nor completely diurnal. The activity of ant species varies with the season, as well as the species. 

Some ants do their main activities during the day, while others do them at night, but both types will be active all day due to the sleeping pattern of ants.

Ants take small naps of 15 minutes multiple times a day. They don’t all go to sleep at the same time, to make sure there are always workers awake to keep things in order.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Ants Active at Night or Day?

Ants are active during both day and night. However, some ants are more active at different times of the day. For example, Florida carpenter ants are more active at night, where they will come out to find food, but they will also be active at day – just with lower activity levels.

Do Ants Go Out at Night?

Yes, nocturnal ants do go out at night, either to find food, water, or for other reasons. For nocturnal ants, their main activities will happen at night, while they’ll do secondary, but essential, tasks during the day. This may be caring for younglings, building new tunnels, or simply keeping the nest clean to avoid contamination.

Are Ants Nocturnal or Diurnal?

Both! Some species of ants are nocturnal, while some are diurnal. Different species of ants are active at different times during the day and night. If you’re looking for answers about a specific type of ant, you’ll get an exact answer.

What Time Are Ants Most Active?

Ants are most active during the summer, while they during the winter months will be in a hibernation mode. They won’t sleep through the winter, but their activity levels are slowed down.

About Teodoro Pittman

Teodoro is a nature and animal lover. He specifically focuses on insects, such as ants, bees, and the like. In his free time, he takes care of his own ant farm, where he analyzes their behavior. Teodoro has spent the last 7 years studying the intricate behavior of these small creatures.