Where Do Pests Go During the Winter?
Where Do Pests Go During the Winter?
Insects are ectothermic creatures, which means they are cold blooded creatures like lizards. Being ectothermic leaves these creepy crawlies particularly susceptible to the cold, and winter can often be a fatal time of year for many types of bugs. As such, these pests have found different ways to not only cope but survive the inevitable cold each year.
Similar to birds, a good portion of flying insects have actually taken to migrating during the cold winter months. Probably the most famous insect that is known to take part in such migration is the monarch butterfly, who travels south between August and October each year.
After studying insect migration patterns, it was discovered that insects East of the Rocky Mountains tend to travel to Mexico for the winter while their fellow bugs to the West of the mountain range will make their way to California and surrounding areas to wait out the cold.
Diapause is the insect version of hibernation. Similar to bears and other hibernating creatures, these insects will enter a state of extraordinarily deep sleep in which their metabolic processes slow to a stop. At this time, the bug survives off of stored energy which can last up to a year for some creatures. Eventually, when warmer weather begins to return, the insects will awaken.
During this time, to prevent freezing to death, insects will often engage in one of the following: They can reduce the water concentration levels in their own bodies and dilute present water by introducing more sugars into their cells in order to drastically lower the freezing rate of their bodies, thereby allowing them to survive the frigid temperatures. In other bugs, their bodies will naturally produce cryoprotectants, which are like a form of biological anti-freeze, in the form of glycerol.
In order to both stay warm and stay safe from the risk of being hunted by wintertime opportunists, hibernating insects seek shelter. Surprisingly certain plants’ natural defenses can create these shelters for insects. As an insect begins attaching itself to the plant, it will retaliate by growing defensive layers which eventually encapsulate the bug. While this ends up being counterproductive for the plant, it is highly fortuitous for the hibernating insect. Other insects will burrow into the ground which both maintains a somewhat steady temperature for survival and adds a layer of protection as it is difficult for scavengers to dig through frozen solid earth. Occasionally a species will place their eggs and/or larvae underground following their mating cycles to wait out the winter in this protected shelter and be hatched/emerge come springtime.
Some social bugs will seek warmth with one another in whatever area they find to take shelter in. For example, ladybugs are known for huddling together for warmth under rocks or in the cracks of man-made structures. Ants and termites work together to burrow their homes further into the Earth where they have stockpiled food and can interact with one another for comfort and warmth. Honeybees also have their own unique ways of keeping one another warm.
Within a colony, certain bees have the ability to act as “heater bees.” These bees can create warmth through either a vigorous vibration of their abdomens or the violent shaking of the muscles that control their wings (but without actually moving the wings themselves). This can bring their body temperature up to roughly 110 degrees Fahrenheit which not only warms that bee in particular but will heat up their surrounding hive members. Heater bees will also travel into empty cells within the honeycomb and heat the cells this heath will radiate through surrounding cells, keeping the hive warmer overall. When it’s cold enough, the bees will huddle in a pile surrounding their queen in order to keep her consistently warm. Meanwhile the bees on the outer ends will rotate with those towards the center in order to share turns in the heat and try to ensure their colony-members maintain a high enough body temperature to survive. We don’t see any honeybees foraging at this time due to this cold. If a bee were to leave the warmth of their colony in the depths of winter, they would drop right out of the air, unable to fly. Honeybees need to maintain an internal body temperature of at least 95 degrees Fahrenheit in order to be able to fly.
Invading Your Home
Some insects will seek out shelter in the form of your warm and comfortable house. If this is the case with your home, no need to fear! Call us today for information on our year-round pest control practices.
Blevins,M. and Hiskey, D. (2019) Where Do Insects Go in the Winter?, YouTube. Today I Found Out. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHc19HHERAo (Accessed: June 2020).