Have you ever wondered where insects disappear to when the weather grows cold? Do they die? Do they leave? Where do they go?
Insects have different ways of dealing with the winter weather.
Two obvious ways that we humans see are migration and hibernation. We have all noticed in the fall, the increased amounts of Monarch Butterflies, as they make their way south. They, along with other insects and some crops pests, use migration as a way to escape the cold temperatures.
Insect hibernation, or diapause, when an insect’s growth or development is suspended due to adverse environmental conditions, is the most troublesome for humans. This is when we begin to notice insects invading our homes. Beetles, crickets, box elders, flies and some outdoor spiders find their way through cracks and doorways looking for a place to overwinter.
Interestingly, ants will huddle together in burrows. Ladybugs will gather together in tree stumps or under rocks and leaves and pile on top of one another for warmth. Honey bees cluster together in their hives, flexing their wing muscles to generate heat and moving back and forth between the outside and the inside of the cluster to keep warm.
Other insects such as grasshoppers, crickets, beetles and moths, overwinter as larvae, pupae, nymphs or eggs. The ground or plant debris protects them.
Adult insects, such as the grasshopper and cricket, die once the female deposits her eggs into a protected environment. Come spring, a new generation emerges.
Many people are curious if a cold, frigid winter will mean fewer bugs the next summer. Very low temperatures, during an extended period of time, may kill off some bugs. Some insects have a chemical in their body fluids called glycerol that acts as “antifreeze” against cold temperatures.
As temperatures warm, bugs start to emerge and go about their business. Sometimes a surprise late freeze may affect a bug population. Yet a warm and wet spring can cause a high bug population.
All in all, many factors during the winter and into the spring impact the amount of bugs we have during the summer months. Too much or too little cold or heat, too much or too little rain may be either favorable or adverse in keeping any one species from expanding into large numbers or keeping it’s population down during the summer months. So watch the weather and maybe you can deduce how many bugs we will have to put up with this summer!
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