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Winter Survival: Insects

March 8, 2018

How do insects survive the winter? With

so many types of insects living in New England,you can imagine there are many strategies for survival. Migration, hibernation, diapause, staying active, going underground, producing "antifreeze", actually freezing, and burrowing into a nice log or tree are just some of them.

 

I'm going to focus on the wood burrowers here, because I live in a log cabin myself.  I can tell you that it heats up nicely when there is a source of heat, but if there is even a small crack in the wall to the outside world, I can feel it.  So how do small creatures like insects who get their heat from their surroundings survive subfreezing temperatures in downed logs?

 

I tried to observe their homes and measure how far into a log they burrow back in early December and I couldn't even get past the first inch of wood because the cells were frozen solid.  I could feel the reverberating shock waves move through my whole body after I hit down on the log with my garden tool to no avail.  

 

I figure insects must dig down into the wood long before it is frozen and the closer to the center or the place where the wood touches the earth, the warmer it will be.  I assume that most insects use multiple strategies to stay alive. Many reduce water and produce glycerol (an antifreeze) and overwinter in an immature phase of life (i.e. woolly bears overwinter as caterpillars) as well as burrow into dead wood.  

 

I'll have to wait until the spring thaw to investigate this phenomenon further.  Until then, check out the link to learn more about winter survival strategies of insects.   

 

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