How do Ants winter?

4 minutes. for reading

There is a lot of talk about how native ants are more challenging to manage than tropical ants. This is explained by the fact that in tropical conditions constant warmth is maintained all year round, while in our winter it becomes cool. Ants and low temperatures are incompatible things, and therefore they fall into a special state of suspended animation, waiting for warm spring days. This strategic phenomenon has become so entrenched in their lives that even in a warm room, ants still need winter rest. In addition, some species may even die if they are not given the opportunity to sleep for 3-6 months.

How do ants survive winter in nature? They have been preparing for this for a long time. In order to survive without food during the cold months, they need to accumulate supplies. During the spring-summer season, the colony receives both protein and carbohydrate food. Protein food is used to raise larvae, and carbohydrate food provides energy to adults. However, with the onset of cold weather, the days become shorter and the nights become cooler, and this serves as a signal to the ants to prepare for an unfavorable period. Honeydew secreted by aphids, juice from ripe fruits and nectar from autumn flowers become the main food resources for ants during these cold times.

Ants accumulate sugars to produce a kind of antifreeze that prevents their bodies from freezing. Having fed to capacity with liquid food, they go into deep chambers underground, gather in dense heaps and fall asleep.

In regions where winters are not as severe, ants may continue to be active during the cold season. For example, Prenolepis imparis from America remains active even at 0 degrees!

The cold resistance of prenolepis is a mechanism for reducing competition with other species: they are small and quite calm, preferring to search for food during periods when other ants are inactive. During hot weather, ants go into diapause and wait for the cold weather to begin.

House ants develop worse in winter. Temperature plays an important role: if the farm is home to a tropical species that does not need wintering, it is necessary to provide warmth for the pets. During the heating season in our apartments, it is necessary to use a thermal mat in the ant dwelling to maintain the temperature around 25-28 degrees. The heating element must be placed under the arena, to the side of the passages (if the formicarium is vertical) or above them (if horizontal) to avoid the formation of condensation.

Ants from temperate regions do not need to be heated in winter. They must be properly prepared for diapause. Carbohydrates play an important role in this process. At the first signs of transition to wintering (decrease in activity, huddling in heaps, lack of larval growth), it is recommended to feed them with sugar or honey syrup daily. After the insects are saturated, when their abdomens swell,

Start gradually (about a week) reducing the temperature, moving the farm to the coolest place in your house. The ants must spend at least 3 months there in order to fully rest (remember: ants whose wintering was carried out incorrectly will develop poorly next year).

Now let’s look at which wintering option is needed for specific ants.

European woodborers, such as Camponotus vagus, C. saxatilis, C. herculeanus, C. ligniperda, require strict wintering with temperatures no higher than 10-15 degrees. In some cases, they even have to be moved to the refrigerator, in the vegetable compartment.

Forest ants and their relatives, for example Formica rufa, F. polyctena, F. fusca, F. rufibarbis, are able to tolerate a gentle wintering at temperatures from 15 to 20 degrees.

Reaper ants, garden ants and myrmicas, such as Messor muticus, Lasius niger, Myrmica rubra, do not require special wintering. Once a year they enter diapause, reducing activity. In such cases, it is recommended to turn off the heating or move the ants to a room with a temperature of about 23 degrees. They usually return to normal activity on their own and resume reproduction.

Carefully prepared conditions for wintering ants guarantee their prosperous condition and successful development in subsequent periods.

How and where do ants hibernate?

Overwintering for ants requires a lot of effort. They actively prepare for the cold by storing seeds, caterpillars and dry plants. The colony is prepared for winter: the larvae are fed, and the wintering compartments are checked and, if necessary, equipped. During cold times, ants take refuge in deep chambers where a warm environment is maintained. The entrances to the anthill are clogged, but are temporarily opened for ventilation during thaws. When the anthill gets wet, supplies are transferred to deeper compartments. Some species overwinter by maintaining a slow metabolism, while other ants continue to reduce activity. Special reserves of sugary substances allow them to tolerate low temperatures. They can also use aphids for food, but in winter the aphids often become exhausted due to lack of fresh food.

What does an anthill look like in winter?

If the ants do not hibernate, the structure of their nest remains almost unchanged, except that the colony moves to a deeper layer of soil to avoid sudden temperature changes. Life in the nest does not stop even in winter, since it is important for wood ants to constantly move their supplies depending on weather conditions. Large anthills can bring piles of debris to the surface for insulation. Ants begin preparing for winter in the summer, actively collecting food reserves, so when picnicking in the forest it is important to be careful not to be bitten by ants.

Movement in the nest occurs within a comfortable temperature, and there are no strict restrictions. All ants store enough food for the winter to avoid starvation in the colony. The larvae can continue to develop if there is plenty of food in the anthill, even when there is snow, although frost may be an exception.

Nutrients are stored in special chambers for a long time. Pharaoh ants, parasitic at home, are not so thrifty. They settle in apartments and stay close to food sources. Ants will breed in warm conditions, creating separate colonies with multiple queens. Getting rid of red ants during the cold winter months can be especially difficult.

How Ants Survive the Winter

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