The Transylvania Times -

Where Do Bugs Actually Go In The Winter?


Last updated 1/4/2021 at 4:14pm

Asian lady beetles are often clustered in homes during the winter and can be a huge nuisance to homeowners. (Photo by Abby Williams)

Millions of insects coexist with unassuming humans, daily. This group of diverse organisms is made up of irritating nuisances like mosquitoes, or beautiful pollinators like butterflies.

Prevalent during the spring and summer months, insects seemingly disappear when winter arrives. So, after September, where do they go?

Allowing us to thrive in wintertime, humans have figured out how to adapt their surroundings using artificial heat, homes and a plethora of insulated clothing. Other animals don't have access to the same technologies, and instead, have adapted through their bodily processes.

Bears, for instance, hibernate in the winter. Their adaptation process includes increased food intake and then, entering a state of dormancy where metabolism slows.

Insects go through a process similar to hibernation called diapause. These critters enter into this state before winter begins and will remain dormant until spring arrives. During this process, their metabolic rate lessens, and they stop development all together.

Before insects enter into diapause, they may burrow underground, hide behind tree bark or scuttle under rocks in search of a safe space that will distance them from harm and the bitter cold of winter. Around these winter holidays, escaping the cold mountain weather, insects crawl into warm homes.

Stink bugs will also often enter diapause in homes and will require very little nutrients during this time. Brown marmorated stinkbugs are commonly seen in homes when cold weather arrives. Another common insect seen in homes are Asian lady beetles. Both are typically unwanted pests during this time of year.

Insects that make it all the way through the winter without coming out of diapause are healthier and their longevity in the process shows that they had appropriate fat stores to last the season.

There is a major challenge that will further impact insects' ability to effectively go into diapause - climate change.

Warmer autumn temperatures can have multiple impacts on insects, including stinkbugs, which may have altered development and size due to the strange change in climate. Climate change, however, can also lead to a failed entrance into diapause and other adverse effects.

Brown marmorated stinkbugs arrived in North Carolina in 2009, and are common pests found in homes during the winter. (Photo by Torry Nergart and NC State Parks) NRID)

If insects do not enter into diapause at the right time, and with the right nutrient stores it can lead to death.

Insects are a major part of our living world and many species rely on them including us. Behind tree bark, underground or even seeking shelter in our homes, insects are more pertinent to everyday life than we may realize.

Watch to see when insects reappear. If the insects in your home start showing activity before warmer weather arrives, they likely were not equipped for the entire length of winter.

Abby Williams is a Brevard native who recently graduated from UNC Chapel Hill. She is currently serving as an AmeriCorps volunteer in the position of Natural Resources Educator for Transylvania County.


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