If an ant could dream, what would it dream about? But wait a minute — do ants even sleep? Many people would be surprised to learn that the answer to both question is “yes” and “yes.” Ants not only sleep and take regular naps, but the evidence strongly suggest they do dream.
So the next question might be: Do ant sleep during the night or during the day? Seeing ants going about their business during daylight is a common sight, so one might conclude that ants work by day and sleep by night. But the story is much more complex.
The Complicated Lives Of Ants
When it comes to the remarkable world of ants, short and simple answers are elusive. There are many facets and factors that must be considered when making definitive statements about the secret lives of ants.
First of all, not all ant species are created equal. In fact, there are 12,000 species of ants, say pest control professionals with Terminix.
That number goes to 16,000 if you include the ant subspecies. Each variety of ants have habits, behaviors and lifestyles that are different from others.
For example, some species of ants are nocturnal, meaning their main activities are done at night. Many others are diurnal, meaning they live and work during the daylight hours.
Finally, some species are active both by night and day. So as you can see, a simple question like, “Do ants work at night” is never conducive to one, simple, cut-and-dried answer.
Many ants do work at night, others don’t, some are active around the clock.
Ant Sleeping Habits, Dreaming
Another common question is: “Where do ants go to catch up on their sleep?” Here again a proper answer is multifaceted.
The queen ant sleeps in a significantly different way than do the rank-and-file worker ants — at least that is true in the few species that have been studied directly for sleeping habits.
The sleeping habits of the fire ant have been closely examined by researchers at the University of South Florida.
They teamed up with scientists at the University of Texas for an intensive ant behavior study. A report on what they discovered was published by BBC Earth News.
What these ant experts found is that the queen ant sleeps as average of 9.4 hours per day. There is also strong indication that queen ants dream.
That’s because the queens are observed to quiver their antenna while deeply asleep. This is similar to Rapid Eye Movement in humans while dreaming, or when dogs are observed to twitch their paws and bark while asleep.
Worker ants get far less sleep than their ruler, the queen. Their sleeping habits are also far different. Worker fire ants get their sleep through hundreds of short naps throughout the day.
In fact, worker ants were observed to take as many as 250 sleep breaks of about one minute each during a 24-hour period. This means they average just 4 hours and 48 minute of sleep per day.
It is unlikely that worker ants achieve a deep enough sleep stage to dream. Although this is uncertain.
What this means, of course, is that worker ants have no special location where they go to sleep. They may be out foraging, inside an underground tunnel or moving along the surface of an ant mound when they decide to just stop and nap on the spot.
Day Ants And Night Ants
Among ant species that are well-known to be nocturnal are carpenter ants, one of the most common ants to invade homes, according to the University of Minnesota Extension Service. They come in by night and nest in the nooks and crannies of homes.
By the way, a very persistent myth about carpenter ants is that they destroy the woodwork of homes like termites. This is not the case. They get their name from the fact that they like to make nests in damp or damaged wood often found in human dwellings.
Compare the carpenter ant to perhaps the most common home-invading ant, the odorous ant, which are active by both night and day.
They are renowned for not being fussy about where they set up a colony. They are found in an extremely wide variety of habitats. A frequent home invasion site for odorous ants is in insulation and near areas of warmth. They are highly attracted to sources of sugar and water.
The odorous ant are sometimes called sugar ants or stink ants because they emit an awful smell when crushed.
Another very common ant that tends to get into our houses are pavement ants. They are most active at night. They favor making homes in the cracks of pavement.
It is common to see this black-colored ant walking on sidewalks. They will readily enter your home, however, if they can find cracks in foundations or other paved structures in and around your home.
Circadian Rhythm And Ants
Another important factor to consider when determining the sleeping habits of ants is the fact that most of them spend the majority of their lives underground in ant tunnels.
This means that they may not see sunlight for days at a time.
This is significant because most creatures on earth develop their sleep-awake cycles based on how much sunlight they get every day. This is called the Circadian Clock.
Even human beings have biological rhythms and cycles set by the amount of sunlight we receive. This is why many people tend to get tired or depressed more in winter months when the days are shorter.
A condition called SAD — Seasonal Affective Disorder — is caused by reduced sunlight. So, consider that most ants spend the majority of their time in the dark – in their natural ant colonies or inside your home, such as living between walls or in cracks in your basement floor.
Their sleep patterns are generally not regulated by how much daylight they see every day — although Circadian Rhythm does play a role in some ant behavior, says a report in Science Alert.
It should be noted that many ant species have eyes that are clearly night adapted. Ants that favor nighttime activity have larger eyes that make it easier for them to gather light and spot food or avoid enemies.
This does not necessarily mean they sleep more during the day, however.
As you can see, concepts we generally take for granted, such as sleeping and “going to bed” apply much differently to the weird, but marvelous world of ants.