Yes, ants do migrate. However, only a few ant species do so. Most ants that transfer nests emigrate instead of migrate. This is because they don’t make a return journey, a key characteristic of migratory behavior.
In this article, we’ll learn further discuss migratory behavior in ants. Before that though, we’ll learn more about migration and how it differs from other types of movement.
What Is Migration?
Migration refers to the regular movement of animals from one place to another. It’s a natural behavior caused by seasonal changes and other factors like the following:
- Food availability
- Presence of predators
- Mating opportunities
In general, animals migrate to take advantage of more favorable conditions. 
A key factor in migration is the return journey. This makes it different from emigration wherein animals leave and don’t come back.
Migratory behavior can be found in many animals. Examples include the following:
- The Atlantic salmon begins its life in the river and migrates to the ocean. When it’s time to reproduce, it heads back to the river it was born in to lay eggs and begin the cycle all over again.
- Humpback whales migrate for food. During summer they travel thousands of kilometers to feed near the polar ice. When it’s winter, they head back to warmer waters to mate and have their young.
- In insects, migration is mostly found in locusts and butterflies. These insects migrate between breeding areas, feeding areas, and hibernation sites.
Monarch butterflies, for example, migrate long distances southward to avoid the cold winter. In the spring they make their way back while laying eggs along the way. When they get home, they come together with a new generation of butterflies.
Migration In Ants
Migratory behavior is rare in ants. Only a few species engage in a true back-and-forth seasonal movement.
One of these species is the Tapinoma sessile. These ants practice seasonal polydomy. They move back and forth between nests depending on the season. 
The whole colony overwinters in one single nest. In the spring and summer seasons, they form many nests to access different food sources. When winter comes again, they all return to the same nest location to once again wait out the cold.
Another species that migrates is Formica japonica. These ants migrate within their vertical nests according to seasonal changes in temperature. 
Why is Migration Rare in Ants?
It’s likely that migration is rare in ants due to physical constraints. Unlike other insects, ants generally don’t have wings. Therefore, they cannot easily travel long distances. Even the ants that do migrate travel relatively shorter distances than other animals.
Logistically, it also doesn’t seem wise for them to migrate. Moving back and forth between nests will regularly expose their queens to predators. Doing so puts the whole colony at risk of dying out.
Do Ants Relocate?
Yes, ants relocate. For the colony to grow successfully, ants may relocate to nests with ideal conditions. These conditions include better temperature, access to food, and less competition.
Where Do Ants Go in the Winter?
Most ants don’t migrate but they do make it a point to seek out warmer shelter in the winter. They dig deeper underground or take refuge under heat collectors like rocks. Sometimes they may also enter our homes and hide in our walls and floors.
Do Ants Hibernate?
Ants do not technically hibernate. They do, however, enter a similar state called diapause and become dormant for around 3 to 4 months. Check out this article to learn more about hibernation in ants.
Summary: Do Ants Migrate?
To summarize, ants do migrate. However, migratory behavior is quite rare in ants. Most ants that move nests usually don’t make a return journey. Thus, in the strictest sense, they emigrate instead of migrate.
Only a few ant species engage in true back-and-forth seasonal movement. These species include Tapinoma sessile, and Formica japonica.