What Do Ants Do in the Winter?

what do ants do in the winter?

When the weather is nice, you may notice ants busily building their mounds in your yard or crawling on trees in your neighborhood. What happens in the winter when the weather is too cold for ants? Those ants are still in your yard — or maybe they’ve found shelter in your home until things warm up again. Here’s a closer look at exactly what ants do in winter.

Ants Invite Themselves Into Your Home

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Image via Flickr by patrickkavanag

Ants are cold-blooded, so they require warmth in the winter to stay alive. Your home is a fantastic shelter for this purpose. It’s temperate and provides all the food and moisture they’ll need to survive a few cold months. You may not realize you have an infestation, though, even if hundreds of ants have moved into your home. Instead, ants are likely to hide in your walls or floors. Some may stay hidden in your cabinets and only come out to search for food.

Ants come inside for warmth, but food sources — such as the plants and grains they enjoy in spring and summer — are also scarce in the winter. For this reason, they may venture into your personal space in search of food.

To discourage ants from inviting themselves in, keep your countertops clean and wipe up any crumbs that fall on the floor. Also, keep pet food sealed to avoid attracting ants.

Species You’re Most Likely to See in the Winter

Depending on where you live, these are the ant species you’re most likely to share your home with in the winter:

  • Acrobat ants
  • Argentine ants
  • Carpenter ants
  • Crazy ants
  • Dark rover ants
  • Ghost ants
  • Odorous ants
  • Pharaoh ants
  • White-footed ants

In addition to keeping your home clean, you can try a few natural recipes for repelling ants, such as applying a mix of water and vinegar or lemon to your windowsills and doorways. Also, take care to not decorate your home with plants that attract ants, such as peonies and wild parsnip. A mix of dish soap and water can kill ants on the spot, and you can purchase some diatomaceous earth to prepare a natural solution for solving your ant problem.

Other Ways Ants Survive the Winter

If your home is uninhabitable for your neighborhood ants, the insects (depending on the species) can try a few other tricks to survive:

  • Using a rock to generate heat: Some species of ant will build their colonies underneath a rock in the winter. The rock will warm up under the sun and provide sufficient heat to sustain the colony until they can emerge again in the spring.
  • Using decomposing leaves: Leaves that fall and begin decomposing provide excellent shelter for ants. Leaves also provide some warmth that these insects can use to survive the winter. To avoid inviting ants into your yard in the fall and spring, rake fallen leaves and dispose of them properly.
  • Using tree bark: Ants can also dig underneath tree bark and will hibernate there until the harsh weather passes. Try some dish soap to keep ants out of your trees.
  • Building special tunnels and mounds: To maintain their body temperature, some ants build special tunnels that retain their body heat. The insects will also close the entrances of their mounds in the winter to keep heat from escaping.
  • Digging deeper: Ants may also dig deeper into the ground and group together to generate extra heat.
  • Feasting in the autumn: When the weather starts getting colder in the fall, some species of ants start preparing for a long winter by upping their intake of fats, carbs, and proteins. Just like other animals who hibernate, these ants put on extra fat to help them keep warm while they’re dormant.
  • Clustering: Whether ants have found a good rock for shelter or have burrowed into a tree or your walls, they can generate extra warmth by clustering together. They usually center their cluster around their queen(s) to keep them warm and protect their population.

Though ants will use one of these techniques or make their way into a nearby home to hole up for the winter, they aren’t very active during this season. In fact, ants hibernate when it’s too cold for them to thrive. As soon as they’re able to consistently regulate their body temperature, they’ll arise from their winter slumber in search of new shelter and food.

Ants in Some Regions Can Thrive in the Winter

Ants change their behavior in the season simply because of the temperature and the scarcity of food. In regions where the temperature stays between 75 and 95 degrees in the winter or only dips outside of that range briefly, ants won’t have to change their behavior much — if at all.

Ants Will Emerge When the Temperature Rises

As soon as the weather is warm enough, ants will emerge from their shelter and get back to work. If you had an infestation but didn’t know it because the insects were hibernating, you may be in for an unpleasant spring.

The first wave of workers will leave the nest in search of food. If they find it outside, they’ll come back to report the news and hopefully nest closer to the source. If they find enough food in your home, however, the ants may not move from the security of your walls or floors until the environment can no longer sustain them.

What Does It Mean When Ants Are in Your House During the Winter?

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Image via Flickr by fronx

Since most species of ants are dormant during the winter, you probably won’t have to deal with a pest problem (or even know you have an infestation) all season. You may see a few foragers, but you’re not likely to encounter many ants in the winter.

To avoid pest problems come spring, you need to winterize your home to make it less appealing for ants. In addition to the tips listed above for keeping these insects out of your home, perform a deep clean in the fall. Also, consider working with a local pest specialist to deal with any mounds in your yard before the ants seek the shelter of your home.

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