Do Ants Hibernate During the Winter?

Ant colony insulating their nest with twigs and pine needles before winter.
Ant colony insulating their nest with twigs and pine needles before winter.

The term hibernation refers to a period when either a plant or an animal is inactive in order to conserve the organism's energy. Hibernation generally occurs during the winter months. Ants are a species of insects that are located in most of the world's regions except in areas with exceptionally low temperatures. Ants hibernate in order to endure a variety of climates around the world. 

Adaptations of Ants for Survival

One of the adaptations that ants have developed for their survival is exceptionally fast jaws with the South American species having a jaw speed of slightly over 140 mph. Scientists believe that the ants developed the jaw speed to be able to fend off predators as the jaws can decapitate rival ants. Ants have also developed a system of communication reliant on pheromones with each colony having a unique pheromone due to the sensitivity of ants finding direction as they allow ants to travel vast distances in search of food without the risk of getting lost. The organized way in which ants live is also a vital adaptation as it allows the ants to construct successful colonies. Within a colony, tasks are divided with the vital ant being the queen as only the queen can breed. Some ant species have been observed kidnapping the larvae of other ants which they then use as workers within their colonies.

Ants During Winter

Ants, like most insect species, are exothermic which means that the temperature of their surroundings dramatically influences the temperature of their bodies. Due to the exceptionally low winter temperatures, the ants' body temperature falls drastically which greatly hinders their movement. Ants seek out relatively warm areas for example under tree bark to wait out the winter. During the months before winter, the ants consume vast quantities of food which is converted to fat providing them with an energy source during the winter. Due to the hibernation, the entryway into their nest usually closes up because of the accumulation of soil. The increase in the temperature of the surrounding makes the temperature of the ants' body rise, and the ants become more active and vigorous clearing the entrance of all the accumulated soil and other substances.

Significance of Hibernation

Hibernation is an essential adaptation for most animals that live in areas that experience frigid winters. As the animals hibernate, their vital functions such as breathing and heartbeat slow down to conserve as much energy as possible. The scarcity of food in the winter months is one of the main reasons that animals hibernate. Animals can preserve their energy as they rely on the fat they had accumulated in the warmer months.


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