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Ants In the Winter: Do They Migrate or Hibernate?

Most ants hibernate during the winter. They can’t tolerate low temperatures very well, which is why they go into hibernation mode: their activity levels drop, their heart rate slows, and they don’t use as much energy. This keeps them alive, without having to eat or drink a lot.

Ants are one of the first insects to disappear during the cold winter months. Most hibernate, hiding underground.

If your ant population is still active in early December, then it’s possible that these are members of a species or genus that doesn’t hibernate. 

But if you see any ants out and about on a warm day in January or February, don’t worry – they’re most likely just foraging for food.

Where Do Ants Go in the Winter?

Most ants go into hibernation during the winter. These are ants that live in places with cold winters, such as the northern US or Europe. They can’t survive the cold temperatures, so they dig down until the temperature is more stable and decrease their activity.

Some ants do minor migrations, meaning they move from their outside nest to find a warm place to stay. This is often people’s homes.

Ants Winter Preparations

before the winter, ants go through a variety of preparations to ensure their survival in the coming winter months.[1]

ants collecting foods

Ants prepare for hibernation by collecting food and water from nearby sources such as plants or other insects then storing it at their winter home. 

Some species also store extra fat within their abdomen so they have more energy when going into hibernation.

Before going into hibernation, they relocate to areas below ground where the temperature is consistent and warmer. It’s important that this area is free of water as it won’t survive a flood.

They survive where others can’t by staying where it is warm: underground. Yet, they choose a place where predators won’t come because of the freezing temperature above ground.

During the day, temperatures may rise above freezing. When this happens, some workers may come out of hiding.

However, they must return underground before evening falls or risk death.

Ants Hibernating in Homes

Did you know that ants may be hibernating inside your house as we speak? 

ant hybernating

When winter approaches and the temperature drops drastically outside (below freezing point), some species of ants will find a warm place to hide.

And unluckily for us, they often choose our homes.

Ants enter structures through cracks or any tiny hole found in basements or low window sills during autumn months. They travel down into foundations where temperatures remain stable throughout the wintertime. 

A common area where most types of ants go is under concrete slabs where insulation between flooring does not exist.

This is where ants go in the winter: into hiding in warm places.

Once these little insects find a location where conditions suit them best (usually indoors), they stop traveling. They settle down until spring returns again.

During this time, all activity ceases as ants enter a low-activity mode. Activity slows down to avoid wasting energy. 

Ants won’t go completely to sleep, like some other animals.

Other Ants Hibernation Areas

queen ant laying eggs together with ant workers

There are certain types of ants that hibernate in different ways [2]

Fire ants, for example, build large mounds where the queen and other members live inside during wintertime.

These types of ant nests are sometimes found on lawns where they make their homes. It is best to contact pest control if you find one as these ants tend to bite humans when threatened.

Ants that don’t hibernate at all include Argentine Ants. They invade warm areas, such as buildings, as they can’t survive cold temperatures.

Instead of going into an actual hibernation state where no activity takes place, Argentine Ant colonies to warmer areas, so they can continue their operations.

Ants that form a winter home or hibernation area are usually species that live in colder climates. Here, food and water supply may not be readily available, so they have to decrease activity.

Hibernating ants typically return to their nest during the spring.

Ants After the Winter

The question of where ants go after winter is a common question.

black garden ant

You’ll usually be able to spot them in their winter home, or while traveling from their nest to a new location, where they’ll be able to spend the spring, summer, and autumn.

If you want to locate any traveling ants, you can usually spot them at places where the temperature will be a bit more stable. This can be in your potted plants, in your home, or simply in the ground near any heat source.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Ants Die in Cold Weather?

Some species of ants will die in cold weather. For example, the pharaoh ant is an invasive pest that lives indoors and outdoors where it can be found nesting near heaters, fireplaces, or other sources of warmth. This species cannot survive temperatures below -16°C (-28 °F) for more than a few hours at a time.

In comparison with many insects though, ants have a much higher supercooling ability which allows them to tolerate lower freezing points.

How to Find Ants in the Winter?

A lot of people are curious about where ants go in the winter. Do they survive? Or, do all ants die off during the cold season like other insects and animals?

Well, the good news is that some species of ant can actually hibernate or enter into dormancy to wait out harsh weather conditions!

Do Ants Hibernate?

Yes, most ants hibernate during the colder months of the year. Ants will go into hibernation mode, slowing down their activities. They will also burrow deeper into the ground, or find somewhere else warm to stay.

Related: List of Animals That Hibernate

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.

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