What Happens to Insects in the Winter?
Insects are everywhere in the summer. They try to eat your fruit, they interfere with your enjoyment of hikes and ball games, and they even fly into your mouth, nose or eyes. It’s a different story in the winter. At that time, insects are scarce. Where do they go in the winter? Do they hibernate?
Cockroaches are among the hardiest insects. When it gets cold and they can’t find a warm place, they’re capable of greatly reducing their respiration and going into a coma for the duration of winter. Instead of hibernating as some mammals do, many insects, such as the cockroach, emerald ash borer and bean leaf beetle, enter a state called diapause that is similar to hibernation. In diapause, these insects reduce their oxygen consumption and metabolic rate and become dormant. They don’t grow and their activity ceases. To survive the harsh conditions, some insects are capable of producing their own antifreeze, compounds call cryoprotectants, which supercool the insect’s fluids and tissues. Diapause can also occur during the summer to help them survive extreme heat or dry conditions.
Heading for Warmer Pastures
Just as some folks and birds escape winter by flying to Florida or going to warmer regions, quite a few insects employ similar strategies. For example, North American monarch butterflies pack up and head to central Mexico. Such long journeys are not possible for many insects, so they go down instead of cross-country. They spend winter at the bottoms of ponds or deep below the soil, where they are safe from frost. Other insects wait out winter wherever they can find warm shelter, including inside homes. If cockroaches find their ways into the walls of buildings, where they enjoy temperatures higher than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, their lives are set for that winter. They live and continue development in these walls and even venture into your living spaces. You might need bait stations to take care of these insects.
Keeping on as Usual
Many people stay inside as much as possible during winter. However, there are always folks who keep going as usual. Whether it is hunting, camping or hiking, winter does not slow down these people. It’s the same for some insects, such as mites, stoneflies or mayflies.
It’s interesting to note that insects react to cold temperatures much like humans do. Some suspend activity, and others find warm places to live in. A few even bear the low temperatures. Insects have been around for hundreds of millions of years, and they’re very good at surviving winter.