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Dork (Dayton)

Hibernation and Ants

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If you don't plan on hibernating your ants or won't have a solid plan in place by October, release them now, please.  It is enormously important for the health, comfort and flat our survival of your colonies and proper hibernation is every bit as important as proper feeding.  If not hibernated properly the BEST case scenario is they will survive, not lay next year and the lifespan of your queens and workers will all go down dramatically.  After laying dozens or hundreds or even thousands of eggs during the Spring/Summer/Fall, your queens need (and deserve) a rest.

Nearly all native Ohio ants need to be hibernated.  Opinions on the ideal temperature vary. But most agree that 40-45 or 40-50 seems about right.  However, it is not as simple as putting them in the fridge at 45 degrees when November rolls around.  Ants survive winters, sometimes in extended sub-freezing temperatures because they create a “biological anti-freeze” that makes their hemolymph (similar to our blood) unable to freeze at temperatures that they normally would.  This substance is called glycerol and is biochemically manufactured. This means THEY NEED TIME to prepare and produce this. Pop them in the fridge at normal fridge temperatures and they may die in hours. But if you give them a few weeks to get ready and let them prep their hemolymph with glycerol, they get their well-deserved snooze.

There are two basic ways to hibernate your ants … outdoor and indoor.  Irrespective of what method you choose, they should be insulated with a towel or the like and will not eat.  But they still need water. If they are in a test tube and the water is low, switch them to a fresh one before hibernation.  And if they are in a formicarium, you will still need to hydrate the nest every couple of weeks.

The outdoor way is to let the natural environment give them the cues that winter is coming by moving them to an unheated garage, basement, crawlspace, etc.  Do this weeks before it will get cold … October 1st is a good target here. They will sense the temperatures dropping and be ready when it gets really cold. If you choose this method know that even these areas sometimes may get too cold on polar vortex days or the like.  So monitor the temperature and be ready with a space heater for an hour or so here and there if need be.

The other method is an indoor hibernation.  You can accomplish this with a fridge, or even better, a wine fridge/cooler.  Most regular refrigerators have a max temp of 40-50. Even at 50, that’s a shock to go from 75ish to 50ish suddenly.  It is far better to have a dedicated fridge or mini-fridge that you can start around 60 or so. The way to do this is to prop (and secure) the door open somewhat.  Testing of this PRIOR to hibernation is ideal. Then you can close the door a little more each week so the temp drops little by little. Testing on our mini-fridge told us to leave it open 12” on week 1, 6” on week 2 and 3” on week 3.  On week 4 we closed it on it’s highest temp setting. This provided a temperature decline weekly from 75 in our ant room to 60 then 55 then 50 then 45 on the sequential weeks. This year out of 30ish queens/colonies, we only lost one parasitic Lasius queen who did not appear well before hibernation to start with.  And all colonies are booming. The HUGE advantage a wine fridge/cooler has is that the max temp setting is far higher than that of a regular fridge or mini-fridge. So you can just put them in there, set it at 60 and lower the temp each week without messing with propping the fridge door open.

We wish everyone the very best of luck this Winter.  Get your hibernation plan in place NOW !!!

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im doin the garage this year

or i could place it in our old duck house its mildly insolated and shouldnt get that cold but cold enough to keep em snoozin and alive

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