Hibernation and warming your colony over winter
I’ve been getting quite a few questions lately about hibernating or warming ant colonies during the Australian winter.
Unless you live in the snow fields, you don’t need to hibernate your ants like some overseas ant keepers do. As long as your ants aren’t facing sub zero temps, hibernation is not required.
During the cold months here in Australia, our queens and colonies will slow down egg laying and activity. Laying fewer eggs and moving less than usual will mean they require much less food. Less activity= less fuel for energy required. So don't be alarmed if they go off their food.
Heating is not required, but if you want to heat your colonies, it will reduce their winter slow down.
If you are keen to pursue warming, I recommend you only warm over their first winter. I feel it is beneficial to your queen to get her first lot of workers (nanitics) hatched so that they can look after her and take on the brood care duties. However, in subsequent winters, I recommend not warming her, so that she can have a break from constant laying. She needs a holiday just like us, and the theory is that these breaks prolong her lifespan, too!
To heat your queen through her first winter, I suggest using a heat cable (15W x 3m) stuck to a shelf (or similar) with blu tack. Lay your test tubes down on top of the heat cable, with the cable close to the open end. Use more blu tack to prevent rolling.
Having the cable close to the end gives your queen flexibility to choose a warmer or cooler spot for her brood and herself. Don’t place the tube at the water end to avoid creating excess humidity and, in extreme cases, a drowning hazard.
Keep an eye on your queens so that you can pick up on their cues about how comfortable they are in their living spaces. If winter is coming to an end and your queens stop using the heat cable, it could be a good indication they no longer need it.