Overwintering refers to the survival strategies used by insects to survive the winter. Overwintering can take different forms for different insects and may vary depending on where in the life cycle the insect is. Overwintering can cause problems for homeowners and residents, as insects will sometimes cause an infestation when emerging from overwintering hibernation techniques.
Why Do Insects Overwinter?
Insects overwinter because they are unable to survive freezing temperatures, limited food supplies, or very dry conditions. While in the hibernation stage, growth is halted and feeding stops. In some insects, chemical changes may take place in order to enable the insect to survive through freezing temperatures. In other insects, the capability to withstand the temperatures is already in place. If neither if these abilities are present, the insect may need to migrate or seek the shelter of homes to survive.
Which Insects Overwinter?
Many different types of insects use hibernation techniques for overwintering, including:
- Dragon flies
- Lady bugs
- Boxelder bugs
- Corn rootworms
- Soybean aphids
Different Life Stages Hibernation Techniques
Insects may use different hibernation techniques depending on the life stage that the insect is in when adverse conditions hit. Adult insects typically hibernate in similar fashion to bears, finding a protected alcove to hide in and staying in place until spring. Insects in the larvae stage will burrow into materials such as leaves or mulch to stay warm and sheltered until the spring.
Insects in the nymph stage of life will stay in the water until spring, staying concealed under the ice. Insects in the pupae stage are already inactive, protected, and non-feeding, so these insects will generally stay in place and emerge as adults when conditions become more ideal. Insect eggs are often laid in the fall or early winter in protected areas to emerge and feed when spring begins.
Migration Overwintering Techniques
Monarch butterflies are the most commonly cited example of an insect that uses migration for overwintering. Monarch butterflies cannot withstand freezing temperatures, so they travel to warmer climates for the winter. Certain other insects only travel to specific places for migration. Once the conditions return to normal, migrating insects generally return home.
Emergence from Overwintering
Insects that choose locations on or near homes may feel warmth emanating from the home and emerge from overwintering into the home. This can cause unexpected pest problems during the winter. Insects that stay in overwintering locations until the spring may also emerge from hiding spots during the spring and cause infestations when the spring begins.
To prevent pests from overwintering in or around your home, it is best to take precautions long before adverse conditions begin. Mid-summer is generally the best time to seal cracks and close pest entry points off. Having a pest control professional treat your home regularly will also help to prevent and control infestations.