Have you ever wondered where bees go in the winter? Is it any different than where wasps go? What about carpenter ants, flies, and ladybugs? Do they migrate, hibernate, or maybe even die?
It’s likely not something most people are overly concerned with, but it’s worth answering; what happens to insects during winter in the Northeast United States?
Insects, like animals, have all developed a means for survival, especially for recurring weather patterns like the cold winter season or the extreme heat of summer. While pest problems differ throughout the country for a number of reasons, it has been proven that climate plays a major factor.
Insects have a variety of ways to survive the frigid winter temperatures. Some survive as eggs, larvae or pupa, while others make it through as adults.
There are a few types of pests, like spiders, cockroaches, and rodents, that will simply move indoors, but for the most part, insects typically have three distinct survival strategies:
Migration: Like birds and humans looking to escape the harsh northern winters, insects also participate in migration or the seasonal movement from one region to another. The distance traveled varies with each species. seeking warmer temperatures. The most well-known insect migration is that of the Monarch Butterfly. Monarchs whose habitat is east of the Rocky Mountains in North America, fly south each fall, gathering in central Mexico's Oyamel fir forest for the winter. Those west of the Rockies migrate to Santa Barbara, California.
Overwintering: This is a process by which some insects actually pass through or wait out the winter season. Overwintering occurs in places such as beneath leaf litter in forests, inside buildings, or even under the bark of trees. All sites provide a shelter from frigid temperatures. Some insects that use overwintering to survive through winter are honeybees and box elders. Activity by species that overwinter almost completely halts until conditions prove to be suitable after winter subsides.
Hibernation: Typically associated with large land mammals, the period of time spent in a dormant state of being is referred to as hibernation. Hibernation is an extended period of time that one remains inactive through the unfavorable conditions of winter. Ladybugs, paper wasps, and some mosquitoes find protected areas like under bark or leaves, inside hollow trees or even in crevices of rocks to hibernate in until warm weather activates them. Another form of hibernation is forming a cocoon. For example, moths that form cocoons in the fall need that period of winter cold, since they likely won't complete their development in a warmer climate.
There are many possibilities when it comes to insects surviving harsh winter weather, depending on the specific species and where they are located geographically. The alternative to the above-mentioned measures is literal death. Some insects do actually die in the winter, like crickets, but they leave behind eggs that will replace the since-dead mature adult one the weather returns to its warmth.
Take a look at the infographic below to determine how some of the most popular insect species, and even arachnids like scorpions, spend their winter months.