What Happens to Bugs in Winter?

I love running around the Rocky Mountains in the spring and summer with my owners.  It is so fun to jump over logs and smell everything!

The only thing that I do not like about those times are the bugs – the big flies that land on me when I am resting in the shade or the ants that crawl all over me if I accidentally lie down on the anthill.

dog 11In the winter time I don’t have that problem.  I love frolicking in the snow and never having to worry about those bugs.  So, that got me to wondering what happens to those bugs in the winter?  I don’t see them when there is snow everywhere, but then they are back again in the springtime.

Like snakes and lizards, bugs are cold-blooded, which means they get their body temperature from their surrounding environment.  This means that in the winter when it is very cold the bugs body temperature drops very low.  This makes it very hard for the bugs to do anything since they can’t be active when they are so cold.

Similar to how plants and mammals have different strategies to survive the winter, bugs have a few general strategies.  Here are the main ways that bugs survive the winter:

Monarch_In_May

MIGRATE

Few, like the Monarch Butterfly simply go somewhere else to survive winter.  For most bugs, that is just not possible because they are too small to travel far distances.

ladybugs winter

A mass of ladybugs in tree bark during winter.

HUDDLE TOGETHER FOR WARMTH

Some bugs huddle together in huge masses in order to stay warm.  These include ants, termites, and ladybugs.

REST – DIAPAUSE

Most bugs go into something called diapause, which is similar to hibernation for mammals.  They replace the water in their bodies with glycerol, something that does not freeze as easily.  This is like they put  an anti-freeze in their body, which is the same thing we put in are car engines to keep them from freezing.

During diapause there is no development happening.  In other words, it is as if bugs simply stop growing until the conditions outside are more favorable.

Many of the bugs that go into diapause are not adults, but are eggs and pupae.  They are simply waiting for the cold winter to be over, so that they can turn into adults in the springtime.

gall

Gall caused by a wasp.

GALLS

A few bugs make a gall, which is a swelling on a branch or twig of a plant.  The bug bites the plant and causes a growth of the plant to grow around them.  This growth protects them during the cold winter.