Ants seem to work tirelessly. They work around the clock to serve the queen and support the colony, but ants still need to take an occasional break.
So, how do ants sleep?
Ants sleep by taking up to 250 power naps every 24 hours. The naps may last anywhere from one minute to eight minutes.
Yet, some types of ants sleep more than others. Here is a closer look at how ants sleep.
Ants Become Unresponsive When Resting
Ants stop moving when they sleep. They remain motionless other than their antennae. The antennae may move quickly during the nap. Researchers believe that the movement of the antennae indicates that the ant is in deep sleep.
Resting ants do not respond to the movement of other ants in their proximity. However, ants may take shorter naps when resting in areas with more activity.
Ants tend to experience reduced sensitivity to stimuli when they rest. They may not notice when another ant bumps into them. Researchers have also noted that resting ants show less muscle tone.
Scientists cannot monitor the brain activity of ants to learn more about their sleep patterns. Ants have simple brains with just 250,000 neurons compared to the billions of neurons found in the human brain. The simple brain and nervous system of the ant make detecting its brain waves impossible.
Yet, scientists can detect the level of brain activity in ants. Research indicates that queen ants may enter a state of sleep called Rapid Antennal Movement (RAM) sleep. During RAM sleep, the queen’s antennae twitch rapidly.
Most ants experience decreased brain activity during rest. However, soldier ants show higher levels of brain activity, which may indicate that they also enter deep sleep.
Ant Sleeping Habits Vary Depending On Species And Job Duties
Over 12,400 species of ants exist. Not all ant species have the same sleeping patterns. For example, army ants rest for longer periods during the night and remain more active during the day.
About 200 species of ants are considered “army ants.” These ants are nomadic. They travel during the day and attack insects and ant colonies that they encounter. At night, the army ants build a temporary nest and rest until morning.
Army ants also have a stationary phase. They stop for the queen to lay eggs. The army ants make a nest out of their body parts and wait for the eggs to hatch before resuming their nomadic lifestyle.
Most other species of ants live and work around a stationary colony. Foraging worker ants may travel up to 200 meters from their colony. They use scent trails to find their way back but stop to rest occasionally.
Ants Rest Frequently Throughout The Day
Most ants remain active throughout the day and night but frequently stop to take naps. However, ants mostly rest instead of entering a state of sleep. They tend to stop and rest in any spot without immediate danger.
Individuals who observe a trail of ants for several minutes will likely notice ants occasionally stop and remain dormant for up to a minute. These ants are resting. Research suggests that ants can nap between 90 and 250 times in a single day.
The Queen Ant Gets More Rest Than the Worker Ants
Worker ants take shorter rests compared to the queen ant. Workers may nap up to 250 times a day while the queen ant takes about 90 naps. Workers rest for about one minute at a time while the queen ant rests for up to six minutes.
A queen ant may receive about eight to nine hours of sleep each day. Worker ants get a little under five hours of sleep from their power naps.
Researchers believe that ants in a colony may also sleep in cycles. At any given time, about 80% of the worker ants in the colony may remain awake. This ensures that enough ants are awake to serve the colony and protect the queen.
A fire ant colony may contain 100,000 to 500,000 workers and hundreds of winged ants. At least 80,000 to 400,000 of the ants are awake at any time.
Worker ants have much shorter lifespans compared to queen ants. Scientists believe that queen ants live longer due to their sleep patterns.
Workers get less sleep and live up to five weeks. Queen ants get more sleep each day, perform less work, and live several years.
Ants Hibernate In The Winter
Most species of ants become less active in the winter. They prepare for winter by eating more food as the weather cools in the fall.
The queen enters a dormant state during winter. The worker ants then huddle in groups in the deepest part of the nest to stay warm and protect the queen. Worker ants may rest for longer periods during this inactive period.
Ants typically hibernate in the stump of a tree, a log, or decaying wood. They may also build nests under concrete slabs and large rocks.
Carpenter ants also establish satellite colonies. The satellite colonies are located within 100 yards of the parent colony. Workers travel between the colonies to transport and store food.
Ants kept in an indoor “ant farm” do not typically hibernate. The indoor air temperature may not drop low enough for the queen to become dormant and the ants to become less active.
Are Ants Nocturnal Or Diurnal?
Ant species may be diurnal, nocturnal, or crepuscular. Yet, ants do not sleep for long periods, allowing them to work during the day and night.
Carpenter ants and sugar ants are nocturnal. Both species are more active during the night but continue to forage for food during the day.
Ants do not appear to change their posture when sleeping. They simply stand still as they nap.
Ants typically sleep in short bursts throughout the day. A worker ant may take up to 250 naps in one day, with each nap lasting about a minute. Queen ants sleep six to eight minutes at a time.
Some species of ants may sleep for longer periods. The army ants travel during the day and rest through most of the night.
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