Do Bugs Get Cold?

Our pest control technicians get asked a lot of questions? Usually they’re specific to a certain problem, but sometimes people are just curious. A question we hear a lot in the winter is, “Do bugs get cold?”

Last month we answered the question “do bugs hibernate”, which provides some insight into how insects ride out the cold weather. Let’s dig a little deeper to get a better understanding of how bugs physically handle cold temperatures.

Insects Can Sense Temperature Changes

First things first – bugs can feel hot and cold temperatures. It’s one of their natural mechanisms for knowing when to migrate, hibernate or find shelter for the winter.

It’s been known for some time that almost no insect can survive for long in temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Scientists originally thought that insects might be able to detect the ambient temperature using their antenna. Turns out it’s actually all in their tiny brains. Insects have heat-responsive neurons that tell the insect whether it needs to move along to a better climate.

However, unlike mammals, the cold won’t cause an insect physical discomfort. It may seem like hot and cold temperatures make them uncomfortable, but in reality they’re just acting on instinct. Insects don’t have pain receptors called nociceptors. They also lack the capability of an emotional response, which is technically included in the definition of pain.

Insect Anti-Freeze Helps Bugs Handle the Cold

Each insect species has developed their own strategies for surviving the cold. However, some bugs have developed a way to adapt physically to better handle the drop in temperature.

Ultimately, it isn’t the cold but rather freezing that poses a threat since cells are mostly made of water. If a living creature’s cells freeze it will die. The solution? Insects have developed the ability to produce glycerol and other alcohol substances that act like antifreeze. This specialized antifreeze keeps the cells from developing deadly ice formation. As a result insects can have a body temperature below freezing and still not feel the effects.

Insect’s Diapause Phase is Based on Temperature

Bugs also have to be able to sense temperature to move in and out of the diapause phase. During diapause, insects hit the pause button and all development stops. This is common for moths and butterflies that overwinter in cocoons. In this dormant state the insect’s metabolism drops dramatically, and it survives off of stored fat.

Getting out of the diapause phase can be a bit tricky. Insects use temperature to determine if the weather has gotten warm enough to wake up. But if they misread the temperature it could be a deadly mistake.

Vulcan Termite and Pest Control Inc. can help you control insects even in the dead of winter. Home pest control treatments are in high demand now that bugs have moved indoors to escape the cold. Call today to learn more about our customized pest control treatments.

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