Do Bugs Hibernate?

Every winter our professional pest control technicians are sure to be asked one question. Do bugs hibernate?

Everyone is well aware that fewer bugs are active during the cold months, however there’s a lot of uncertainty as to where they go. Virtually no insect can survive out in the open when temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Continue reading to learn how insects survive the long, cold winter.

Insects That Hibernate

According to the Smithsonian Institute the answer to whether or not bugs hibernate isn’t straightforward. The short answer is many bugs have hibernation-like tendencies while others do not.

Hibernation is different for insects compared to mammals. For insects it’s a dormant state when there’s no development at all. This is known as diapause. Mammals may not be very active, but they are still developing tissue and growing during hibernation. Hibernating insects are sort of suspended in time where they don’t change.

Hibernation usually consists of finding shelter that can protect against the cold and hunkering down. The insects are mostly inactive to conserve energy. Some insects, like bees, will gather together to survive cold temperatures. Others will vibrate their wings to generate heat when it gets too frigid. There are some adult insects that will also reduce the water content in their body and replace it with glycerol, a natural anti-freeze.

Places that insects use for hibernation:

  • Heated homes – particularly in the attic and inside wall cavities.
  • Garages
  • Barns
  • Sheds
  • Tree trunks
  • Logs
  • Leaf litter
  • Underneath the soil
  • Hives

You can take steps now to reduce the spring bug population by clearing out tree trunks, leaf piles and old hives where insects may be hibernating.

Overwintering is More Common for Young Insects

So what about insects that haven’t matured into adults? Entomologists have discovered that a process known as overwintering is more common in the immature insect population. Insects can overwinter at different life stages, including:

  • Larvae
  • Nymph
  • Pupae
  • Egg

In the larvae stage many insects will also reduce the water content in their body and increased production of glycerol to protect against freezing. During the pupal stage some bugs, most notably butterflies and moths, will continue to develop within cocoons and other makeshift shelters. Very few insects lay eggs just before the winter. Those that do will usually bury them in the soil to protect eggs from the cold.

One significant difference between the overwintering process and hibernation is that immature insects are still growing. This is when many bugs reach maturity. That’s part of the reason why there’s an explosion of insects in the spring. The most well known example of this is dragonfly and stonefly nymphs. They live in streams and ponds where they continue to feed and grow. They’re so resilient they can survive under the ice of a frozen pond.

Even though there’s less insect activity, it’s important to continue using custom pest control treatments in the winter. This can help you control the bug population on your property when it’s much easier to manage. If you need advice or help with pest control in Central Alabama give Vulcan Termite and Pest Control Inc. a call!

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