Most of us know from personal experience that pests are sneaky as well as highly adaptable and innovative. But have you ever wondered where they go in the winter time? In the hot and sticky air of summer, insects appear to be everywhere; circling your food, marching across your counters and buzzing by your ear. But when temperatures drop, the insects often seem to vanish like a disappearing act until months later when the weather warms up again, until to reappear just as magically. So where did the insects go? In general, there are three different survival strategies that insects use to survive our cold North American winters.


  1. Avoiding the Cold

Birds aren’t the only ones to fly south for the winter. Some butterflies and dragonflies head south in large groups as soon as the cold weather starts setting in. North American monarch butterflies are probably the most famous migrating insects. They avoid the cold every winter by travelling thousands of miles until they reach warmer areas in central Mexico!

For other insects, avoiding sub-zero temperatures means a much shorter journey of only inches, not thousands of miles. Many aquatic insects wait out the winter at the bottoms of ponds. It is here that they can remain relatively comfortable even when the surface of the pond freezes. Others insects practice a similar philosophy in the soil, burrowing deep below the frost line.

  1. Carrying On

While it is true that insects seem scarce when the coldest months of December and January arrive, some insects just keep on living. Another winter survival strategy for some insects is to just carry on as usual. Some insects crawl into warm pockets in the grass or leaves while other insects stick it out on the surface. If you look closely at the snow in the winter time, you may be able to see black dots that are actually mites, springtails and spiders.

  1. Freezing

The last winter survival strategy insects rely on is diapause; entering a dormant, semi-frozen state. Some insects enter diapause until they thaw out in the spring and crawl off as though nothing had happened. The emerald ash borer, a tree-killing invasive species in North America, is one such example. During their winter diapause, they just sit under the bark of trees where they have been feeding all summer, waiting to wake up when the weather turns warmer to continue their feed. This is made possible because of a high concentration of glycerol in their blood. Glycerol acts as an antifreeze. Woolly bear caterpillars on the other hand actually do freeze into little statues. Ice literally forms inside their bodies and then thaws out come spring time.

It should be noted that many insects actually do die in the winter but leave their eggs behind. These eggs often survive the cold months and then replace the dead population as a new generation in the spring. An example of this is crickets.

If you are seeing any insects inside your home or business this winter, call APM for prompt and effective extermination services.