6 Ways Insects Survive Winter

insects in winter, strategy to survive

Where are the insects in winter?

Insects, like most animals, have a few strategies to survive the cold winter of the Rocky Mountains.  Here are the different strategies that insects take during the cold winter.

For most of the year I feel like the insects are everywhere.  I especially notice the mosquitos in the mountains when the snow melts and they are biting.  But, I don’t see many insects in winter because they may just not be there.  Do you know all of these different strategies that insects choose?

Insects In Winter Choose One of These Strategies to Survive


Some insects choose to leave the Rocky Mountains completely and go to a warmer area.  The best example of this is a Monarch butterfly, which migrates south to Mexico.

mourning cloak butterfly, insects in winter

The Mourning Cloak is rare for a butterfly in that it spends winter in its adult form.

Adults Hibernate or Huddle Together For Warmth

Some insects choose to go into a kind of hibernation to survive the cold winter.  For example, the Mourning Cloak butterfly survives as an adult and then is one of the first butterflies to be seen in the spring.  Another insect that survives winter in the adult form is a female mosquito.

Other adults choose to gather in huge numbers and huddle together to stay warm.  The kinds that do this are social insects such as ants, termites, and ladybugs.

Many Insects Survive Winter In A Non-Adult Form

If you remember, all insects undergo metamorphosis.  This means that insects change during their lifecycle.  In general, insects begin as an egg, change to a larva or nymph then to an adult and back to an egg.  During the winter these immature insects are not developing, but are simply in a resting phase until the weather warms up.

insects in winter, wooly bear caterpillar

A wooly bear caterpillar hides out during winter.

Survive Winter As A Larvae

Many insects survive winter in their larvae form.  For example, the wooly bear caterpillar hides under leaf litter or under bark.

Survive Winter As A Nymph

Some insects of aquatic insects spend the winter as nymphs (the larva form of aquatic insects).  The nymphs are under water at the bottom of lakes and rivers.  They are still active, eating and growing.  Examples of these insects are stonefly, caddisflies, and mayflies.

Survie Winter As An Egg

Some, but fewer than the other strategies, simply lay eggs and the adults die off.  These insects survive as eggs, which then hatch in the spring.  One of the insects that chooses this strategy is a Praying Mantis.

Survive Winter As A Pupae

Some moths go into a pupal form and stay in the pupa until the weather warms up.  To remind you, here is the basics of a moth lifecycle.

For more information, you can read about the common insects of the Rocky Mountains here.