If you live in the Oldsmar area and are a frequent walker, then you’ve more than likely noticed the huge amount of towering ant hills, or sprawling ant piles, that dominate most parks, fields, or really anywhere with a flat expansane of grass. And through Florida’s colder than normal winter months, there really hasn’t been any sign of the little red and black biters slowing down.
It often leaves you with the question, where do the ants go in the winter, and why do I see less of them when it’s cold out only for them to spring right back up the second the temperature raises?
Well, 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.
Knowing that spring is around the corner, and that our rather warm winter won’t do much to stop the tide, homeowners should be prepared for a spring invasion this year. And while the best method of ant control is prevention, you’re still likely to see them in your house the moment you slip up. Then, the only way to get rid of an invasive ant population is to rely on the services of a pest control expert.