With winter in full force, spiders, mosquitos, and other pests may be the last thing on your mind as a homeowner. After all, you sprayed for pests in the spring, managed to contain that pesky population of ants you had growing in your sidewalk this past summer, and now you can rest knowing that you won’t have to deal with them for another few months.
Being cold-blooded organisms, most insects don’t fare so well in the winter months. Some insects still remain active in cold weather, however, most just seemingly disappear. If you’ve ever wondered where your pests go in the winter, be prepared to learn some interesting, and in some cases just plain bizarre facts about the pests that we address at Moxie’s Pest Control.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Much like birds, there is a population of insects that migrate every winter so that they can feed on seasonal plants and nutrients. The most prominent example is the Monarch Butterfly. They will fly a total of 2,500 miles to reach their destination, hibernate, and fly back when winter is over, treating their southerly destination like a seasonal timeshare. Milkweed bugs, leafhoppers, beetles, locusts, and dragonflies also fall under this migratory category. Some migratory insects have short lifespans, which means adult insects will migrate to mate, lay eggs, and die to leave their offspring to fly back when it becomes warmer only to repeat the cycle again. Of course, this means more pests for a homeowner to deal with in the Spring.
Is This the Real Life or is this Just Fantasy
Like other organisms, insects hibernate, however not how you would expect. Insects will go through a phase known as “Diapause”, which is essentially a suspension in the insect’s development. In some species, diapause occurs as part of the insect’s normal life cycle. In other cases, this stunt in growth and development is triggered by certain natural stimuli that occur before the harsh conditions of winter or a shortage of food even occur. In a way, insects can predict what’s to come and instinctively take actions to ensure their survival.
During diapause, the insect’s metabolism drops significantly low (about one-tenth of its normal metabolism) allowing the insect to live out the winter months in a sort of suspended animation, much like cryogenic chambers out of a science fiction movie. Insects also reduce the amount of water in their bodies as water freezes at a higher temperature compared to other liquids. They replace water instead with a cryoprotectant glycerol, which is very similar to putting antifreeze in a car.
Then it’s simply a matter of waiting out the harsh winter months until spring. A stimuli, such as a hormone will then trigger the insect to re-animate once it is warm again. What this means is that pests like spiders could be hibernating all winter long in your home, waiting for the temperature to change so they can come back out in full force.
There is a Season, Turn, Turn, Turn
One of the more ingenious ways insects survive the colder months is by timing their growth cycle to ensure that they have the proper protection they need from the elements. Certain insects undergo metamorphosis, which is a change in its physical state.
Some insects follow a four-cycle metamorphosis. The four cycles are the egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Great examples of this four-cycle metamorphosis are butterflies and moths.
While there are preferred cycles for weathering the cold weather, it appears insects have found ways to survive in just about every stage. If eggs survive the winter, they will develop into larva or grub. As larvae, insects can find cover under leaves and some species of grubs will burrow into the ground to escape the elements.
Assuming an insect has made it through the larva stage, they will proceed to the pupa stage.
Pests, like moths that don’t usually survive winter conditions, develop cocoons in the pupae stage to shield themselves, and emerge fully grown by the time winter is over. If the insect’s life cycle was timed correctly with the season, it will emerge an adult in the spring.
In certain species, insects have a three cycle metamorphosis. Instead of becoming larva or pupa, eggs grow into nymphs, which are smaller juvenile versions of an adult insect. Examples of these include grasshoppers, dragonflies, and earwigs. While most insects of this kind don’t survive winter, nymphs of certain species, such as dragonflies or crane flies will live in the warmer areas of ponds encased in ice.
Home for the Holidays
It’s important before winter to ensure that there are no exposed areas or holes in your house where pests can crawl or fly in. Once in, some pests will simply remain inactive in a home by hiding in air ducts, walls, and other warm areas until spring. Wasps are notorious for living in barns, attics, and other cavities of a house. When the time comes, pests will re-animate, reproduce, and repeat the process of breeding for next year.
We’re here to Help
We have to admit that nature has found some fairly clever ways to help insects and pests not only survive but in some cases thrive in the winter months. While insects and other animals can be interesting to learn about, we would still like to keep them out of our living spaces. It’s helpful then to have a good understanding of the life cycle of your common household pests and use proactive prevention and maintenance to keep pests out of your home.
While it’s impossible to keep all pests out, by following some best practices you can take the necessary actions to ensure that your home is relatively free of unwanted insects and pests. Follow our blog for more helpful information and insights about pest prevention and control. As always, Moxie Pest Control is here as a trusted resource for you should you have any questions regarding your specific pest control needs.