Zoology

Bugs in Winter where do Insects Weather the Weather



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Have you ever wondered where all those pesky little, 6 legged insects go when cold winter weather comes?  It can’t be far, because they are rapidly back when spring arrives!

Nature provides some really fantastic ways for these insects to survive.  While some head for our homes and hide within walls or in attics, others actually migrate to warmer climates until spring reappears.

Those that remain in our homes like to find out-of-the-way places like basement corners, woodwork, attics, and even within the walls of our homes.  Some merely lay their eggs in these chosen locations to await spring’s return.  Others hide out only to make their appearance on your kitchen or living room floor when you least expect it!

Just like bears, there are some insects that hibernate during the winter months, finding a nice warm area and curling up until the spring thaws. Others find a warmer location, like tree trunks or inside logs, and lay their eggs to await hatching in the spring.  The adults from these species usually die off during the winter knowing that their young will survive them when the weather warms.

Water dwelling insects sometimes burrow into riverbanks or river beds, below the water, to stay warm over the winter months.  They burrow into the mud bottoms where they are better insulated against the cold.  Honey bees and some other hive dwellers remain dormant during winter and rely on oxidation of the honey in their hives to keep freezing away.

The Monarch butterfly is one type of butterfly that actually migrates when the winter months comes along, traveling south when cool air hits.  Other types of butterflies and some moths migrate also.  Though it might be another generation of the butterfly or moth that returns in the spring, they still seem to instinctively know which way is north and head that direction when weather seasons begin to change. 

Many insects have built in capacities to actually dehydrate cells within their bodies and lower their freezing point. They revert to a dormant condition where their development and activities are suspended.  This condition, known as diapause, puts their bodies into a state of “suspended animation” of sorts, allowing their metabolic rates to be high enough to survive, but not actually function.

Many insects have an interior thermostat which, when the temperature gets low enough, helps to produce glycerol in their bloodstreams.  Glycerol is a sugar alcohol that acts somewhat like anti-freeze, by slowing the insects’ metabolism and helping to keep it from freezing.  Glycerol is a type of cryoprotectant that prevents freezing and damage of tissues.

And, yes, there are some insects that find ways to remain active where they are during winter months.  They may retain enough body heat for survival by “shivering” to keep their body heat up.  Or they may have a system of heat-shock proteins that help regulate their temperatures. 

With so many different varieties of insects, it is no wonder that their ways of surviving winter climates is so varied.  And it is also amazing what nature has endowed all of its creatures with in terms of survival techniques.

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More about this author: Sylvia Harrison

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ARTICLE SOURCES AND CITATIONS
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.learner.org/jnorth/tm/spring/FrozenInsects.html
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2808276?uid=3739656&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&uid=3739256&sid=21101241105331
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/heatshok.htm
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.si.edu/Encyclopedia_SI/nmnh/buginfo/winter.htm