Thursday, December 8, 2011

Do All the Bugs Die in the Winter?

Quite a few do, but trillions do not!

“Like the Terminator, the message from pest insects during the winter is ‘I’ll be back’”, says Leonard Douglen, the Executive Director of the New Jersey Pest Management Association.

“One of the most common questions pest management professionals hear as the weather turns cold,” says Douglen, “is where to all the insects go? Many do die, but nature has equipped many pest insect and other species with the capacity to survive. For homeowners, termite colonies that have often been there unnoticed for years survive quite well both inside and outside.”

“Termites weather the winter by huddling together. Homes provide the same heat to their indoor colonies as it does to humans,” says Douglen. Those in outdoor colonies, just like ants, huddle together for warmth, usually below the frost line where they have stored food until springtime. Though a colony may have thousands of individual members, they function as a single organism.”

“Homeowners and others are often surprised to find cluster flies on a mild winter day,” says Douglen. “That’s because they sometime hide in the nooks and crannies of a warm house. There are literally thousands of places in a home that provide a place for insects to over-winter and this is true as well for rodents, mice and rats, who move indoors for the same reason.”

Not all pest species survive the winter alive. Mosquitoes, says Douglen, lay their eggs in the summer and the adults die off. The eggs, however, survive throughout the fall and winter months and can even survive freezing. In the spring, the eggs thaw and hatch.

“One way of surviving winter for many insect species is called ‘diapause’ and it affects eggs and pupae. It is a form of hibernation,” says Douglen. “It is a period of little or no activity.”

Near the Artic Circle, some species do the same in a process called torpor. Others, like flightless crickets, can freeze solid and resume activity when they defrost. Other insect species prepare for the cold by making their own antifreeze. During the fall, they produce glycerol that gives the insect’s body “super cooling” ability that allows their body fluids to drop below freezing points without causing ice damage. In the spring, their glycerol levels drop.

Like reptiles, insects are cold-blooded so their body temperature is determined by the weather. “Some insect species migrate to warmer areas,” says Douglen. “The most famous migration is that of Monarch butterflies, but other butterfly species as well as moths, dragonflies, and locusts also migrate.”

“Bed bugs, a widespread pest problem, can live for long periods after taking a blood meal and, since they live off of humans,” says Douglen, “that means they enjoy the same habitat, over-wintering without any problem at all.”

“The lesson,” says Douglen, “is that Mother Nature equips pest insect species will the ability to survive no matter how cold winter may become. Come spring, many homeowners will see the first indication they have a thriving termite colony when winged members take flight to establish new colonies. What they may not also know is that their home also has a carpenter ant colony.”

“These species have been here long before humans, so even if we do not see them during the winter months, you can be sure they will return in the spring.”

Founded in 1941, the New Jersey Pest Management Association celebrated its 70th year in 2011. The Association maintains a website at

Contact: Leonard Douglen @ (800) 524-9942

Disseminated by The Caruba Organization
Alan Caruba @ (973-763-6392

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