Where do ants go in the winter? As soon as cold weather arrives, ants seemingly disappear into thin air! And how do ants survive in the winter? Are they, like us, wrapping up their outdoor lifestyles and heading indoors or to a warmer climate? As we nestle in, stocking up on hearty soups, richer vegetables and piles of firewood, are ants also taking steps to brave the elements? The answer is yes.
Ants are masters of overwintering, or waiting out the winter season. When cold air arrives, ants' body temperatures drop dramatically and their movements become sluggish. Ants respond by seeking out warm places, such as deep soil, under rocks or under the bark of trees.
Ants overwinter on a community level by hunkering down in clusters to maintain body heat, as they huddle protectively around the queen, sheltering their population's lifeline. During this time, the entrance to their nests close as ant traffic slows down and ceases. When warm weather returns, the ants will become active again, opening up the entrance to venture outside.
Most species of ants consume large amounts of food in the autumn to put on fat, thereby allowing them to go without much food through the winter. As winter passes, ants enter a dormant stage in which they lay low, feeding off the fats, carbohydrates and proteins they stored the previous fall.
The first warm days of spring lull the colony out of their dormancy, and it's back to work. Worker ants leave the nest in search of food. After they've located a food source, they eat and head directly back to the colony to alert others of the food find. Marking their return path, the worker ants lie down an odor trail leading from the food to the colony. The nesting ants then follow the odor back to the food; this explains the "ant trails" we see across the kitchen counter.
Knowledge of how ants live during the winter can help homeowners prepare for, and prevent, spring invasions. As cold air approaches, eliminate the chance of a colony overwintering in your walls by treating the perimeter of your home with TERRO® Outdoor Ant Killer with Multi-Purpose Insect Control. This powerful ant killer not only kills ants on contact, but it also provides long-lasting control to keep next spring’s hungry ants out of your house.
Find out more about ants and discover ant facts in our insect library. For more information on how to control ants and other pests, view the series of TERRO® how-to-videos.