Preparing ants for the winter is a serious and responsible stage of the whole life of the anthill . By and large, almost all the efforts of the family of ants since spring are aimed at accumulating enough resources for the experience of winter and ensuring the release of a new generation of ants before the onset of frost. In this case, many ants do not sleep at all in the winter, as the observer might seem, who does not see them for several months. Their lives continue to boil, although not as violently as in the summer.
The way ants are prepared for winter has been studied in detail by many scientists. In addition, amateurs-myrmecologists, who keep ants at home, are so familiar with the subtleties of wintering of each species that today this process is considered literally from all sides.
On a note
Science, the subject of study of which are ants, is called myrmecology. Accordingly, a specialist who studies certain aspects of the life of ants is a myrmecologist.
Different ants hibernate in different conditions and different times. Polar ant, for example, is forced to winter for 8-9 months a year, and in a few warm snowless months, it does not always manage to feed a new generation of larvae. Nevertheless, wintering ants even in such conditions usually passes quite successfully.
On the other hand, the ants living in the south - in Central Asia, Kazakhstan, the Mediterranean - spend the winter for one or two of the coldest months. And in the transition regions, for example, in Turkey and Asia Minor, hibernate not every year, but only under the harshest weather conditions. At the same time they are still preparing for the winter at the end of a warm period - they collect seeds, equip an anthill, feed a large number of larvae.
It is interesting
Usual for us pharaohs ant - small house wrecker - does not winter at all and does not prepare for the winter. He is a native of the tropics, where climatic conditions change little during the year. And in the Russian latitudes, for this reason, he can only live in a man's dwelling - unable to winter, in the natural conditions of a colony of pharaoh ants on the street in winter dying out.
Where and how does wintering take place?
The ants are hibernating in the same anthills in which all the rest of the time dwell. Most often as wintering cameras are used that are deeper in the ground, since they maintain a more stable temperature throughout the winter.
All entrances to the anthill for the winter are carefully sealed with earth and dry parts of plants, so that they do not receive cold air through them. In warm regions during thaw periods, individual entrances can be uncorked and insects run out to the surface in search of food.
Some ants sleep in the winter - so you can call the state of diapause, in which the functioning of the internal organs of insects is extremely reduced, but not stopped.
Other species remain active during wintering. As a rule, during this period they move little and feed little. But if larvae hibernate in the anthill, the adults continue to feed them. Such ants are actively preparing for winter and collecting larvae in cells with an optimal microclimate.
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Ants living in severe northern regions hibernate with severe supercooling - in some of them the body temperature can drop to minus 50 ° !. And the larvae of one of the ants on the Kolyma had a minimum body temperature for insects in general-minus 58 ° C. In this case, the larvae did not stop metabolism. In fact, this is a kind of natural phenomenon: at such low temperatures, all the fluids in the body of any other living creature freeze. In the case of ants, when the cold sets in, the amount of sugars in various body fluids sharply increases, due to which the temperature of their freezing constantly falls, and even with such extreme frosts they continue to remain liquids. Of course, in this state ants practically lose their mobility. We can say that they are asleep.
Some species of ants winter only adults. As a rule, these are the types that do not have diapause, and insects need to be fed all year round in an anthill. These ants thoroughly prepare for the winter - make stocks consisting of seeds, dried fruits and other parts of plants.
Ant larvae require protein food for food - other arthropods, for example - which adult insects they can not get. Accordingly, by winter, all the larvae of the eggs laid in the spring, manage to turn into adult ants, which leave for the winter. And in the spring, with the appearance of the first protein food, the uterus begins to lay new eggs.
Working ants of such species in the winter make some kind of repairs in the anthill, expand the chambers, monitor the observance of the microclimate.
In the ants living in the northern latitudes, larvae do not have time to develop into adult insects in a short summer. They have to spend the winter in a supercooled state.
In particularly extreme northern ants, who live at high altitudes, larvae can winter twice before becoming an adult ants. Usually the larvae of the third age, most resistant to temperature changes, winter.
It is interesting
In their distribution to the north of the ants are limited only by a line beyond which even in summer the land does not thaw deeper than 30 cm. The Kamchatsky ant, for example, can arrange anthills on hummocks at a depth of 10 to 40 cm, and it is important that in this area the soil temperature in summer was sufficient for the development of its larvae.
Arrangement of an anthill for wintering
An anthill in winter in those ants that do not go into hibernation is practically no different from its summer state. Inside it, only the dislocation of insects themselves changes: the ants live a little deeper in winter, away from the cold surface of the soil. Sometimes they even have to make special wintering chambers.
Due to the constant temperature fluctuations on the surface, and also because of frequent wetting of the upper layer of the anthill, insects are forced to constantly move and carry part of their reserves. That's why life in an anthill in winter does not freeze for a moment.
Forest ants , famous for the large size of their anthill-heaps, are trying to bring to the surface as much land and garbage as possible to warm their house even more. This will allow them to winter in fairly large quantities.
Ants begin to prepare for winter even in the hottest months of the summer, gradually arranging the inner chambers of the dwelling and collecting food for the winter.
Judging by the researchers' data, ants do not have a hard taboo on the way out of the nest in the winter. They simply move within the temperature range at which the insect does not freeze. In most cases, such temperatures are maintained only inside the anthill. With the advent of the spring thaw, the anthill is heated, and the ants can reach the outlets. At a certain air temperature, insects uncork individual entrances and exit to the surface. Sometimes this can happen in the middle of winter.
It is interesting
Especially in detail the life of an anthill is tracked in formicaria - artificial anthills with glass or plastic transparent walls. Fans who keep ants in these cages are forced to arrange their wintering on balconies or in refrigerators. At this time, insects are fed and regularly open the entrances to the anthill for ventilation. The video below shows an anthill. In the same chambers ants and winter.
Do the ants stock up for the winter?
Almost all wintering ants make supplies for the winter. Even representatives of species that winter in extreme conditions, at the expense of stored plant and animal remains live part of the autumn, when the anthill is already covered with snow, but the temperature in it does not drop to too low values.
Ants make stocks for the winter almost all the warm season. Most of the middle years of Russia in the years occurs in May-June, and immediately after it a part of the nutrients brought to the anthill belongs to special chambers, in which low humidity and temperature are maintained.
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Ants-reapers living in steppe areas collect up to one kilogram of various grains in one anthill for feeding in winter. Almost all summer and autumn they are preparing for the winter.
As a rule, the reserves mainly consist of plant products - plant seeds, kidneys, flowers, soft green stems. They remain long enough and have high nutritional value.
Some ants, unwilling to part with delicacies, carry even aphids to the ground, which continue to share with them a fallow. Of course, aphids perish from lack of food for several weeks, but ants are enough.
It is interesting
For the feeding of the uterus, ants sometimes use so-called trophic eggs. The uterus lays it in the summer, with an excess of feed, and until the winter, they do not develop, but continue to conserve a large number of nutrients. Such eggs are a kind of protein canned food for insects.
In addition to aphids, many insects inhabit various insects - beetles, moths, their larvae - which give off a nutritious and sweet secret, popular with ants, while they themselves feed on the stocks of ants or even their eggs. Partly such neighbors also help adult ants to winter without a hunger strike.
In a huge family of ants there are species that are strictly wintering at the northern boundaries of their range, and in the south they do not winter at all. It is believed that the process of preparing for wintering is started by the ants themselves in response to various environmental conditions: changing the duration of the day and night, the total composition of feeds and other factors. All this helps the insects to maximize the use of all the opportunities for survival and reproduction that the environment provides them.