Common Carpenter Ant Questions
It can get pretty cold in Rhode Island. We've seen the temperature go all the way down to 28 degrees below zero. That's cold! But, is it cold enough to keep carpenter ants from being active in winter? This is definitely a good question to ask. Carpenter ants cost U.S. property owners million of dollars every year. If you have these wood-destroying insects crawling in your walls, the last thing you want is for them to have four extra months to do damage. Here are a few questions we get about carpenter ants relating to winter infestations. Hopefully, they will help you understand these wood-destroying pests better, and help you protect your home from the damage they can cause.
"Are carpenter ants active in winter?"
They can be. It depends on whether or not they have enough warmth and enough food. If provided with the right conditions, carpenter ants can live in a man-made structure even during the coldest months of the year.
"Do carpenter ants hibernate?"
It depends on how you define the word hibernate. The broader definition of the term gives reference to animals that sleep during certain seasons of the year. This is a slumber that is on a sort of geological timer. Cold-blooded creatures do something slightly different. They enter a state called diapause. This isn't hibernation, though it can seem like it. Diapause, just as its name would suggest, is a pause in activity. This pause is usually brought on by a change in ideal temperature or availability of food resources. If it is too hot, many insects will go into diapause to keep from overheating. When cold-blooded insects get too hot, they die. They also enter diapause if temperatures drop. This low-energy state allows them to withstand the cold and go long periods without eating.
The big difference between hibernation and diapause is that creatures in diapause can easily become active again if conditions that drove them into diapause change. All it takes is a single warm day in the middle of winter for carpenter ants to start moving around, while a hibernating animal will continue to hibernate until an appointed time.
"How do carpenter ants survive the cold?"
Beyond their ability to enter the low-energy state of diapause, carpenter ants have other ways of surviving the cold. In nature, carpenter ants will establish their colonies in moist or rotting wood. Often, this wood is underground, like in a rotted stump and decaying root system. This underground location, combined with a layer of snow, gives them the insulation they need to stay alive until the temperatures warm back up. In a man-made structure, these ants hardly have to worry about the cold at all, especially if the structure is heated. The heat that radiates from within is enough to keep these wood-tunneling insects as snug as a bug in a - wall.
"What do carpenter ants eat during winter?"
Sometimes carpenter ants don't eat anything all winter long. In nature, carpenter ants will seal themselves into their nests and enter diapause until it warms back up. They can stay in this state for months without eating. In this low-energy state, their bodies consume carbohydrates, fats, and proteins stored in their body from all the excess eating they did in fall.
If carpenter ants are living in the walls of a man-made structure that is kept warm through the winter, they may feed on any foods they are able to find inside. Scout ants will explore pantry shelves, cabinets, kitchen counters, and all the floors in your home, searching for a meal to share with their colony. They'll also get into pet food that is left in a dish, fruit that is left out, rotting foods in the trash, leftover remnants on dishes left next to the sink, and more.
What they don't feed on is wood. You are probably already aware of this, but carpenter ants don't consume wood. They eat meats and sweets, like other ants do. But, they may not eat anything in a home during the winter, depending on where their nest is located, and how warm their environment is.
So, the simple answer is yes, carpenter ants can be active in winter. That is why it is important to quickly address a carpenter ant issue, no matter what time of year it is.
If you see large black ants crawling around your Rhode Island home, contact Big Blue Bug Solutions. We'll stop those ants before they can do more damage to your home, and to your equity.