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Where Do Bugs Go In The Winter?

Saturday, November 30, 2013

By the end of the summer, many people are looking forward to winter for one very good reason: it gets rid of many pesky insects that have grown to be more of a nuisance all summer long. But where do bugs go over the winter? That depends on the species. Insects have several good strategies for surviving the winter. Here are some examples of how they make it through the cold months.


Some insects migrate to avoid the cold weather. The most famous of these is the monarch butterfly, which winters in Mexico and summers in Canada. If you have ever had a chance to see a flight of these remarkable insects when they cluster for rest along their journey or at either endpoint, it’s truly magical. Unfortunately, they largely fly around Colorado.

Overwinter as Adults

Other insects overwinter as adults, sometimes clustering together for warmth. Box elder bugs do this, as do ladybugs. The depth of harborage that they seek turns out to be a fairly good indicator of how hard the winter is going to be, though how these insects know what to expect is a mystery.

Colony Insects in Winter

Colony insects have different strategies, though all overwinter as adults to some extent. Bumblebees and wasps overwinter just as a single queen, which will establish a new nest in the spring. Honey bees remain active all winter, drawing on their stores of honey to keep the hive fed until the first flowers of spring open. Termites in the wild may go dormant during winter, but if they are in a building, such as your home, they may stay active all winter long. Ants go to the deepest parts of their colony and wait until the weather warms up. Ants can survive temperatures well below freezing, down to about -8° F, because they have glycerol “ant”-ifreeze.

Overwinter as Nymphs

Nymphs are intermediate stages of development for many insects. Dragonflies, mayflies, and related insects have their nymphs in lakes or ponds, where they remain alive and active all winter long below the frozen surface.

Overwinter as Pupae

Pupae are another intermediate stage for insects with complete metamorphosis. It’s the chrysalis or cocoon form that moths and butterflies use to change from caterpillars to adults. This form can protect insects from very cold weather.

Overwinter as Larvae

Some insects overwinter as larvae, caterpillars or grubs, that may burrow into wood or the ground for protection from cold.

Overwinter as Eggs

Other species lay eggs during the fall that ride out the winter underground or in wood. Grasshoppers are probably the most well-known example of this.

Adapting to Domestic Environments

Other insects have adapted to domestic environments, and these insects don’t need an overwintering strategy. Cockroaches are a common example of this behavior.

If you have insects that are overwintering in ways that cause you concern, such as carpenter ants or termites in your home, we can help.

Please contact Animal Pest Control Specialist today for help with insects and other pests anywhere in the greater Denver Metro Area from Boulder to Castle Rock.


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