Do Ants Hibernate?
The average home has more than 100 kinds of bugs living in it, and ants are one of the most common American pests. Ants disturbing a summer picnic or invading your kitchen counter on a rainy spring day are tales we all know well, but where do ants go in the winter? What should you do if you see an ant in your house during the cold months?
Read on to learn about ants’ winter habits and whether or not they hibernate.
- Ants technically do not hibernate, but they do something very similar–adult ants “overwinter,” and ant larvae “diapause.”
- Ants thrive at summer’s peak, so they begin to prepare to overwinter as early as fall.
- You might notice ants in your house during the winter–it’s possible that an ant colony could overwinter on your property or even inside your house.
- If you notice signs of an ant infestation in your home in any season, call a pest control service.
What Happens to Ants During Winter?
You might have noticed a lack of ants during the winter near your home, despite a bothersome ant population boom during the warm months, and wondered where these insects go when the temperature drops. Do ants die, or hibernate in the cold? Scientifically, ants do not technically hibernate, but they do something very similar.
Ant larvae “diapause” over the winter, while adult ants “overwinter” (something between diapause and true hibernation). Diapause means what it sounds like–ant larvae essentially “press pause” and do not eat, move, or develop over the winter.
Then, once spring comes, they become pupae.
During diapause, ant larvae’s bodies produce a sort of “antifreeze” to protect their internal organs–almost like they’re freezing and thawing without causing harm to their bodies.
When adult ants overwinter, they produce the same glycerol “antifreeze,” drop their bodies’ water content, and build up their bodies’ fat content to act as fuel to keep them alive. Their movements become extremely slow and sluggish to conserve energy, and they only respirate about half as much as they do during the summer. When spring is around the corner, you may notice an ant or two in your home searching for water. They’ll bring said water back “home” to humidify their nest as the rest of the ant colony begins to “wake up” and emerge for the warmer months.
How Cold Does It Have to Be for Ants to Hibernate
Ants prepare to overwinter starting in the fall–they eat to “bulk up” and get ready to burrow into the ground. The prime heat of summer’s warm weather is when ant colonies are most active–between 75 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit–and they become increasingly less functional the colder it gets.
Around 50 degrees Fahrenheit is when you may begin to notice a drop in the ant population as they begin to burrow for the season.
Will Ants Stay Active in My Home During Winter?
In general, you’ll likely notice a significant decrease in the ant population near your home over the winter. However, it’s possible that ants may take shelter in your warm house or even that a colony may overwinter on your property.
If you’re seeing ants in your kitchen or anywhere on your property during the winter months, it’s likely that an overwintering colony is burrowing nearby (possibly even in your house).
Carpenter ants in particular might nest inside of your floors or walls for the winter. Moreover, extremely cold weather conditions or heavy precipitation may cause ants to take shelter in your home, especially if your home isn’t kept clean or there are accessible water or food sources inside it.
When to Call a Professional
If you’ve noticed multiple signs of an ant infestation in your home, it’s likely time to call a pest control professional. Many signs may indicate that your home has been invaded, such as:
- Increased ant sightings
- Sawdust trails from carpenter ants burrowing in wood
- Ant hills or ant nests made from dirt or soil inside your home
- Munching or rustling sounds from carpenter ants in your walls
- An odor like rotting coconuts (from squashed bodies of odorous house ants, native to Canada)
- Crumbling wooden structures
- Discarded wings
- Ants crawling in and out of outlets or gaps in drywall or grout
Regardless of the season or species of ants, it’s best to call an exterminator to catch the problem early. If you do have an ant colony overwintering in your home, the infestation will only become more severe when they emerge in the spring.
A professional can help identify the source of the problem and what may have caused it, and will be an expert when it comes to choosing a treatment.
Common treatments include ant baits, insecticides, and sealing any holes in your home’s walls. While DIY treatments can certainly make a difference, calling a professional helps ensure that the pest problem will be gone for good.