What happens to ants in the winter?

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In Canada, ants are often unavoidable in the spring and summer, but come winter they are nowhere to be found. Ever wonder what happens to ants in the winter? Do they hibernate or do they die? In this blog post, we unravel the mystery of ant survival strategies, exploring the remarkable adaptations that enable them to endure unforgiving Canadian winters. We also provide tips on how to get rid of ants in the winter if you are unlucky enough to find these pests in your home. 

Do Ants Die in the Winter? How do Ants Survive the Winter?

No, all ants do not die in the winter. While a handful of ants will inevitably succumb to the harsh winter weather (especially if they venture outside alone) most ants will survive using the following strategies.

  • Dormancy (Diapause): In the winter ants enter a state of reduced activity or dormancy called diapause (similar to hibernation but for cold-blooded animals). This helps them conserve energy and survive with limited resources. If you see an ant in this state it will appear unusually sluggish. 
  • Deeper Nesting: Ants may move deeper into their nests to avoid extreme temperature fluctuations at the surface. The deeper layers of the nest provide a more stable environment, protecting the colony from harsh winter conditions. 
  • Storage of Resources: Prior to winter, some ant species stockpile food within their nests. This stored food serves as a vital resource during the colder months when foraging becomes difficult or impossible. 

Some ant species are more active during winter, while others are less active or even completely dormant. For more information on the different types of Canadian ants we find in homes check out our post: WHICH CANADIAN ANT IS INVADING YOUR HOME?

In short – just because you can’t see ants during winter doesn’t mean they’re not around. It is most common to spot ants around your home when they are out foraging for food. In the winter, however, ants have little need to eat and will feed on their stockpiled food if necessary. Instead, they will be prioritizing their shelter and warmth behind the scenes remaining evasive and out of sight.

What Happens to Ants in the Spring?

With the arrival of spring, ants gradually emerge from their winter dormancy (diapause) to resume their normal activities. As temperatures rise, ants become more active and start preparing their colonies for increased productivity. Worker ants, which were relatively inactive during winter, start venturing out of the nest in search of food and Queen ants will start laying eggs again to expand the colony. This transitionary period is a crucial but fragile time for the ant colony which is why it is best to get professional ant control services early in the spring before they establish a strong colony for the summer. If you see a couple ants emerging in early spring call professional ant control right away and save yourself the havoc of an ant infestation come summer. 

Why are there Ants in my House in the Winter?

Although not common we do sometimes find ant problems in homes during the winter. This can happen when the ants have found a particularly well insulated and warm part of the home to nest in. Since the home is heated their body temperatures never drop and they never enter diapause. See our best tips on how to get rid of ants in the winter below. 

Best Ways To Get Rid Of Ants in the Winter

  • Seal All Points Of Entry: Ants breach homes by entering through gaps around windows, doors, or your home’s foundation. In early winter, as temperatures start to drop ants may be attracted to the warmth of homes and try and enter. Sealing cracks or gaps can help stop the influx of ants. 
  • Practice Prompt Clean-ups: You should immediately clear plates from your dining table after eating. Then sweep away dropped crumbs and thoroughly clean away spills. Remember, dirty dishes in the sink will attract hungry ants.
  • Store Food In Airtight Containers: Ants go crazy for ripe fruits and vegetables. If you leave food like this exposed, you’ll attract ants into your kitchen. Store your fruits and veggies in airtight containers or in your refrigerator.
  • Clean Pet Food Bowls: Ants aren’t the picky kind. They’ll be just as easily attracted to your furry companion’s food as your own. Make sure that pet bowls are empty between meal times. Then clean the space around the bowls to avoid crumbs and standing water that provide an oasis for ants.
  • Check for Water: Ants are not only attracted to food but also to water as it is also essential to their survival. Fixing leaky faucets, ensuring windows and doors have tight seals and dealing with high humidity in the home can help make your home less hospitable to ants.
  • Call the Professionals: If the above methods aren’t working it’s time to call in professional ant control. Our ant experts will be able to locate the ant nest and treat the issue from its source. 

For our more extensive list of year-round tips check out our post: HOW TO GET RID OF ANTS

Need professional ant control services? Rentokil Terminix has you covered! We offer expert pest & wildlife control services for both residential and commercial properties with locations across Canada including BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.


All of Rentokil Terminix’s pest control experts are fully licensed, certified, and held to the highest professional standards possible. We are part of the National Pest Management Association, Canadian Pest Management Association, QualityPro, and the Structural Pest Management Association of Ontario, among other provinces. We are proud to have provided Canadian homeowners with quality pest control services for over 90 years!