Have you ever wondered if ants sleep? Ants are some of the most active and hardworking creatures on the planet, and they can often be found tirelessly marching from one place to another, carrying food or debris back to their colonies. But, despite their seemingly tireless activity, do ants actually sleep?
Ants will have up to 250 naps each day and they can last from 30 to 60 seconds! This is known as “quiescence” which induces sleep-like patterns allowing them to regain their energy levels and strength more quickly!
However, quiescence is very different from your average sleep cycle! To explain this in more detail let’s first take a closer look at quiescence in ants so you have a better understanding.
Quiescence In Ants
Quiescence is basically a state of rest, often marked by inactivity or dormancy! For insects, quiescence allows the more efficient utilization of energy during periods when resources are scarce while also enabling an organism to conserve energy ahead of environmental challenges it may face.
For your average ants, quiescence is the equivalent of sleep “inactivity” During quiescence, ants will remain motionless and in the same position for a short period of time. This state of rest allows the ants to conserve their energy, which would otherwise be used up if they were constantly on the move.
This also serves as an adaptive strategy that helps tropical ants, more specifically the “quasi-heterodynamic species” survive in times of nutritional or environmental stress.
When tropical ants experience hot and dry periods, they enter a state of quiescence a type of “dormancy”. There are different forms of dormancy, found in ants, extending from elementary quiescence to deep diapause! For tropical ants, it’s a type of elementary quiescence.
During this period, ants do not feed, drink or move around. They remain dormant in their colonies until environmental conditions improve and resources are available again.
Quiescence Vs Sleep
Quiescence is not the same as human sleep though. While humans or even animals enter a deep sleep during which their bodies are completely motionless and their brain activity significantly slows down, ants do not experience this type of sleep.
Instead, their quiescence periods only involve brief rest stops whereas sleep can last for 6 to 12 hours.
In addition, unlike humans, ants do not dream and their quiescence period is unlikely to involve any stages of Rapid Eye Movement (REM). This is why it is often referred to as a “power nap” instead of true sleep.
Furthermore, during quiescence, ants will still remain aware of their surroundings and they may even alert other members in the colony if they sense danger!
This means that although ants do rest periodically throughout the day, they are still able to immediately respond to any changing environmental conditions or threats.
Where Do Ants Typically Sleep?
So at this point, you must be wondering where do ants go to get some shut-eye? Well, there are a few places ants will sleep! The most common place is in their nest, this way, they can effectively hide away from predators and remain close to food sources when needed.
However, because ants are always on the go and have so much work to do, they may also take naps while performing their duties! As they march from one place to another, ants will often stop for a minute or two before continuing with their task.
These short periods (power naps) allow them to recuperate and gain energy in order to go about their business. In these cases, some ant species may take quiescent pauses within a short distance from the nest or along the trail back home.
Do Ants Sleep Night Or Day?
As already mentioned above, many ant species operate on an ‘off and on’ quiescent cycle, meaning they don’t follow a consistent night/day sleeping pattern like humans or other mammals.
Instead, certain ant species experience temporary bouts of stillness, which may happen during either the day or night depending on various environmental factors.
For example, some ant species may be more active during the day, where they will be out and about collecting food in order to bring back to the colony.
But then at night, when temperatures are cooler and air is more humid, these same ants may enter a state of quiescence so that they can conserve their energy until daylight returns.
Other ant species might also take regular naps throughout the day in order to stay energized for long periods of time or even rest overnight if it’s necessary. So ultimately, it all depends on the type of ant and its environment!
Do Ants Sleep With Their Eyes Open?
Due to the structure of their compound eyes, ants are physically unable to close their eyes when they sleep. So technically, yes, ants do sleep with their eyes open!
But that doesn’t mean they are wide awake and alert during their quiescent periods. The basic structure of an ant’s eye allows it to detect movement but not much else – meaning they can still rest even if their eyes remain open.
So while the phrase “sleeping with one’s eyes open” may sound like a contradiction in terms, it is actually very much possible for ants!
Do Ants Sleep In Winter?
Despite their impressive ability to work nearly all year long, ants are not immune to the winter cold. When temperatures drop below 10 degrees Celsius, many species of ants enter what is known as diapause.
During this period ants become dormant and inactive and focus on nothing more than survival, conserving their energy until the weather warms up again.
While it may appear that ants are slowly disappearing in winter, they can actually be found in increased numbers as they hunker down in their nest.
So yes ants do sleep, but as you’ve just learned, it’s not the same as what we humans experience. While ants don’t require much sleep, they do need periods of rest in order to recharge and stay energized!