Sleep is critical for a hardworking person like yourself to be active and do their work efficiently. As we all know, ants work tirelessly around the clock without seemingly taking any break or resting. While we can’t operate without any sleep, do ants need it? And if they do, how long do ants sleep?
Worker ants may sleep from anywhere from an 8 minute nap every 12 hours to over 250 one-minute naps in one day. The numbers vary considerably and are different than the queen’s sleep patterns. As ants sleep multiple times a day, they are polyphasic sleepers.
The sleeping cycles of ants are different than what us humans are used to.
Many researchers believe the purpose of this sleep may be to transfer their short-term memory into long-term memory, which they seem unable to do while awake.
Ants sleep throughout the day, whether it is in the daytime or nighttime.
The Queen Ant’s sleeping habits consist of longer naps, are much more consistent, and nearly mimic human sleeping patterns.
A Queen ants’ sleep can last up to nine hours per day, over twice the amount of sleep enjoyed by worker ants.
Workers take turns sleeping as they have to protect the colony and hunt for food.
This means they are overworked and sometimes show signs of sleep deprivation.
Worker ants die very young due to the amount of stress on their body.
Meanwhile, queen ants mostly only die of old age, which means they live a long life (up to 30 years in some species!) unless external factors kill them.
Some of these external factors include human intervention or an attack from another predator in the ecosystem.
Worker Ants work for nearly 99% of their lives!
Do Ants Sleep?
Ants do sleep like other animals. Ants have a cyclical and consistent pattern of small naps where an ant will rest, and another ant from the colony takes over their jobs. The sleeping habits of the ant species resemble more short power naps taken at irregular intervals than human sleep.
More can be found here in this paper (Source)
The queen lives differently from the worker ants and enjoys more sleep.
These naps are much longer, as she needs as much strength as possible to lay all the eggs.
The worker ants thus play the role of disposable workers providing for their queen.
Many believe that queen ants live so much longer because they get much more sleep and are protected by the worker ants during it.
According to research, 80% of the workers are awake and active at any given time in an ant colony. (Read More)
A colony seemingly only needs 80% of the worker ants to complete all the tasks necessary for the queen ant and its offspring.
That means up to 20% of the colony is resting at any given point.
This shows that workers are a disposable part of the ant social hierarchy.
How Do You Know An Ant is Sleeping?
When an ant sleeps, The mandible and antennae activity is much lower (usually up to 65 percent lower). Since these naps are so short, it’s tough to identify when a Worker Ant is sleeping. Queen ants will sleep anywhere from 4-9 hours, depending on the type of species.
This means the Queen Ant enjoys a much deeper sleep than the worker ants.
Worker Ants seem to always be on their toes and working round the clock.
However, most of the time, when we see an ant, it’s usually a worker ant foraging for food.
To the naked human eye, we can never tell if these ants are resting or not since identifying a reduction in antennae activity is very hard.
This is why these tricky little insects have us so confused as to whether they even rest or not.
When the temperature starts to cool down, Ants show conservation-like behavior to reduce their need for food.
This leads to reduced biological activities, thus reducing their need for food.
Do Ants Sleep In Winter?
Ants sleep daily and hibernate during winter, the same way as many other insects do in the colder months. As the colder month approaches, the queens stop laying eggs, and workers increase their foraging and start storing food in the colony.
When the temperature starts to cool, ants living underground in a colony go deeper into the earth.
This will protect them from the temperatures on the surface, which are much colder than the ones underground.
Some ants, like the carpenter ants, who do not have a colony underground and live in, for instance, wood surfaces, can form their nest inside a house to survive winters.
Wood is an excellent insulator, providing enough heat for the carpenter ants to survive these cold winters (sometimes in your home).
If this happens, and they find heat in your home, they won’t hibernate.
This means carpenter ants can be a real pest during the winter times.
When Do Worker Ants Stop Hibernating?
Workers come out of hibernation before the queens as they need to cater to her needs. Queen Ants are larger and hence take longer and usually wait for the rest of the colony to have everything prepared for her before she awakes.
Meanwhile, the workers must continue arranging food and protecting against predators.
This happens at the biological level, where they become active much faster.
Their metabolism slows down during hibernation, and ants survive on the food collected during summer and are less active during cold months.
Do Ants Dream When They Sleep?
Ants can dream when they sleep. According to a study on fire ants, Researchers observed an entire ant colony’s sleeping patterns under lab conditions. Only 20% of the workers were asleep at any time, while 80% were operative.
More can be read about that study here (See The Study)
According to a study by Devon Swick, George Yanev, and the team, fire ant queens slept for double the amount of a worker ant, which is why queens live long lives. (Source)
The study showed that all three queens slept close, and this made the sleeping patterns of the three queens synchronized.
They slept on top of each other and were awoken by the other queen ants or worker ants.
The queens either slept with partially raised antennas and mouths open or erected antennas and closed mouths.
This second condition was when the queen ants were in deep sleep.
Their antenna would move during this period, which made the researchers conclude that ants also dreamed when asleep. (Read More)
Do Ants Work At Night?
Ants are an overworked species. Ants have long been associated with and used as an example of resilience and hard work by humans. Ants lack a deep resting phase. Since most ants are nocturnal, they will do most of their work at night.
During the night, sleeping ants are probably not something you’re going to find.
Any ant colony (e.g carpenter ants) will be incredibly active during the night while the queens sleep.
Ants live to provide for their queen, and queen ants live to create more ants.
They are overworked to serve queen ants and are stuck in a vicious cycle.
Do Ants Sleep With Their Eyes Open?
Ants have very unique eyes. Since ants do not have eyelids, they can’t close them the same way that humans do. This means that ants do take their short naps with their eyes open. Remember, their resting period is very short compared to humans.
Additional Insights On Ants
We enjoy researching and finding awesome insights to provide to our readers.
We have some complementary articles that answer some of the questions listed here:
- How Do Ant’s Legs Function: While we talked about identifying ants earlier in this article, this one gives a more in-depth guide on an ant’s movement.
- Are Ants One Of The Strongest Insects?: With Enough sleep, ants become incredibly strong. But are they the strongest insects?
- What Happens When You Kill a Queen Ant: If you’re trying to hunt a Queen Ant while she sleeps, this article may be your best bet.
Frequently Asked Questions
The only times we see ants is when they’re running around.
Because of this, we always assume they never sleep.
Below, we answer some common questions about ants and their sleep patterns.
Where Do Fire Ants Sleep?
Like other ant species, fire ants live underground; hence, they sleep in their nests. Although a fire ant, if stuck somewhere, can nap anywhere. Its natural sleeping place is inside its nest, away from predators, and weather conditions can change the habitat location.
Do Ants Sleep in The Dark?
Ants sleep can sleep in the dark, but it is not a requirement. Ants do not sleep for hours and instead take naps inside their dark colonies. If they are outside, it doesn’t matter whether it is day or night; the light does not keep them awake.
Why Do Ants Not sleep?
Ants do sleep. However, their sleeping patterns are unique, and they do not sleep for hours as we do but instead take short naps. Worker ants sleep at regular intervals equivalent to naps, while the queen ants sleep a deeper and more prolonged sleep.
Do Carpenter Ants Sleep During The Day?
The Carpenter ant is a nocturnal ant; This worker ant sleeps at night and during the day in shifts. Workers are constantly searching for edibles to eat, and although these ants are considered nocturnal, they do not only sleep during the day.