While cleaning up my garden a few years back, I thought about the many insects and mites I saw in the summer and wondered, “Where are all the spider mites, grasshoppers, lady bugs, praying mantis, squash vine borer, and cucumber and squash bugs? How do they spend the winter?”

          I e-mailed my friend Jim Kalisch, in the Department of Entomology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and he helped me with websites that I could research. Many are listed at the end of this article.


          Insects have a variety of methods for surviving the coldness of winter:

1.  Migration-Like humans, insects also have their “Snowbirds” that head south for the winter and then return. The Monarch Butterfly, the Painted Lady Butterfly, the Gulf Fritillary, and the Giant Swallowtail are the foremost examples of this maneuver. Other pests such as leafhoppers, black cutworm, fall armyworm, cucumber beetles, and milkweed bugs also head south.

          Most of the insects mentioned reinvade the next year. But it is different individuals that will return in the spring and early summer with the help of southern winds.


2.  INVASION-“Most insects stay here year around. They employ a variety of tactics for survival. One is simply to move in with humans. Insects such as multicolored Asian lady beetles (ladybugs), face flies,   cluster flies, elm leaf beetles, boxelder bugs, and clover mites overwinter as adults in wall voids, attics and other out-of-the-way places in homes and other structures.” (1) In nature, many will seek shelter in leaf litter, rotten logs, or dense forest undergrowth.


3.  ACTIVATION- “Honeybees have been studied during the winter and

are found to remain semi-active in hollow trees and hives through the generation of body heat.  The consumption of 30 pounds of stored honey during the winter months makes this possible.  Heat energy is produced by the oxidation of the honey, and circulated throughout the     hive by the wing-fanning of worker bees.” (2)


4.  HIBERNATION-“This is the strategy employed by most of our

northern species to avoid winter. However, ‘hibernation’ is really a concept that describes mammal wintering. Insects that go dormant in winter enter a state called ‘diapause’. Their bodies respond to changes in daylength, temperature, food quality and other environment cues”.  (3)



(1)     “Where Do Bugs Go In Winter” by Don Janssen, Extension Educator      for Lancaster County Extension Service.           (

 (2)    “Where do Insects Go In the Winter?” Prepared by the Department of           Systematic Biology, Entomology Section, National Museum of       Natural History, in cooperation with the Smithsonian Institution.           (

(3)     “Where Do All The Insects Go In The Winter?” by Neil Carter,       Tender Fruit & Grape IPM Specialist, Ontario Ministry of          Agriculture,          Food, & Rural Affairs and Hannah Fraser, Entomology      Program Lead (Hort)/OMAFRA           (


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