What do ants do during the winter? — Emily’s student essay

What Do Ants Do During The Winter?

The cold, harsh climate found exclusively in the winter time is a challenge that almost all animals face yearly. However, the frigid air, the roaring snow storms, and even the freezing of most food sources are no match for these animals. They develop various ways to adapt to the merciless grasp of winter in order to overcome these challenges. 

For example, many mammals go into hibernation during the winter season, such as bears, bats, and groundhogs. Other ways to avoid the cold include migrating to a warmer area (as deployed by the avian population), or shifting the hues of their coats to blend in with the snow. This information is usually taught to people in the lower grades of education, but the lesson most likely left out of the discussion is what insects, specifically ants, do during the winter.

Ants are, for the most part, just like any other animal when it comes to preparing for winter. They gorge themselves on food in the autumn season in order to survive off the various nutrients gained from the food over the course of winter. This is all done in preparation for their yearly winter hibernation. 

The entire colony prepares for the low temperatures in an attempt to survive by raising their fat content to combat the food scarcity seen during winter. When the time finally comes to brave the intensity of winter, ants choose a different route than that of the bear or the bat.

Yes, they do hibernate, but they refrain from entering the deep slumber commonly seen in other species that go through the hibernation process.

ant workers

Instead, ants look for warmer places like under rocks or leaves in order to wait out the season. This urge to search for warmth during the winter results in the ants entering people’s homes and lying dormant until spring. Because they do not enter into a deep sleep like other hibernating animals, they are left to move sluggishly around their hibernation area, or even remain completely immobile all throughout winter. 

In this state, the ants live off of the food previously consumed during fall to survive and stave off hunger. They produce substances like glycerol in order to regulate their body temperature in an attempt to survive the ruthless and severe cold. These factors all contribute to the ants’ attempt at survival during the winter, which results in another year of life for these insects.

Moving Ants Colony

After the long and seemingly endless tyranny of winter, spring finally emerges. The warm, flower-filled season is not the only thing to emerge, as the ants who had previously entered hibernation now emerge from their dormancy. This means that those same ants who chose to spend their winter hibernation in people’s homes start to awake from their dormant state and start wandering the premises.

 The worker ants scavenge for food for the occupants of their colony, attempting to feed the queen in the hopes of increased egg production for spring. Homeowners will spot these insects around the area after the ants emerge. People seemingly get a respite from ant infestations during the winter, but that is simply the calm before the storm until spring arrives.

Author: Emily Curry

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