In many places in the United States, spring brings butterflies and beetles, summer brings mosquitoes and wasps, and fall brings centipedes and stink bugs. However, depending on where you live, you may not see many bugs during the winter. While plenty of insects have life cycles of less than a year, other insects survive through the winter—they just do it out of sight.
Where do bugs go in the winter? A number of places, including your home. We’ll outline the winter hiding places of some of the most common pests and tell you how to avoid letting them inside. We’ll also recommend the best pest control companies to get winter bugs out of your home.
Where Do Insects Go in Winter?
There’s great variation in the insect kingdom when it comes to surviving winter temperatures.
Many groups of animals migrate south for the winter, but there are relatively few migrational insects. Monarch butterflies in North America, though, will head down to Mexico for the winter months. Some dragonflies, too, will fly south in search of warm weather, sometimes even crossing oceans.
In the insect kingdom, hibernation is called diapause, and it’s similar to what animals like bears do in the winter. Essentially, the first signs of cold weather trigger the insect to start eating more to store up lots of nutrients. The insect will then find a safe place for overwintering, and its metabolism will slow down considerably. Later, as temperatures warm up, its body will speed back up and it will return to its normal state.
Insects in more extreme freezing temperatures need an additional adaptation to survive the winter, even in diapause. These insects’ bodies can produce antifreeze proteins like glycerol that prevent the water in their bodies from turning into damaging ice crystals, which would kill them. These insects, like the woolly bear caterpillar, actually do freeze, but revive upon thawing.
Many adult insects simply can’t survive the cold, but their eggs, larvae, nymphs, or pupae can. These insects will lay eggs in protected places with the hope that they’ll hatch in the springtime. Crickets, grasshoppers, praying mantises, and some types of spiders survive in the long term with this seasonal life cycle.
There are many insects that don’t completely go into diapause but hunker down to avoid the cold nonetheless. Colony insects like ants and honeybees will retreat to their nests or hives, sometimes sealing themselves off from the external world. Even many individual insects will find places in tree stumps, underground, or in various other natural shelters. As long as the temperature remains above freezing where they’re hiding, they’re likely to survive.
Which Pests Come Out in the Winter
Of course, one very appealing place for insects to hide for the winter is in the warmth of your home. There, they can find food, water, and shelter, and even safety from predators.
You probably don’t have to worry about the species of ants that nest underground or in trees. However, if you’ve got carpenter ants or another species that likes to nest in the structure of your home, you could find yourself with a substantial ant problem.
Unfortunately, since bed bugs feed on human blood, they live indoors year-round. If you see signs of a bed bug infestation, no matter what time of year it is, call a pest control professional immediately.
Famously, cockroaches can thrive in a wide variety of climates, including extremely cold temperatures. Although cockroaches can survive the winter outdoors, the species that act as pests prefer to be near sources of warmth and food, including your home.
These creatures, also called lady beetles, go into diapause during the winter, and they often huddle together for warmth on trees or the sides of houses. Interestingly, they will nearly always group up on the south sides of these surfaces for maximum warmth, though they may also sneak inside your home if given the chance.
Although silverfish prefer warm, damp habitats, they can survive in temperatures as low as freezing and as high as 100°F. While they can go dormant in the winter, silverfish in your home have no need to do so and will stay active all winter long.
Different species of spiders have different ways of dealing with the cold. Many can simply tough it out. Others lay eggs before they die off. However, most don’t actually seek out the warm temperatures of your home; those that come inside usually do so by accident.
Stink bugs, however, are notorious for seeking shelter in residential buildings for the winter, sometimes in large numbers. Once indoors, they may go into diapause, but some stray stink bugs may remain somewhat active all winter.
Termites remain active year round—even on winter days. Cold outdoor temperatures have little effect on drywood and subterranean termites that have found food and shelter in your home’s walls and foundation. And while you may not see swarms from December through February unless you live in a warmer climate, like tropical Florida, you may see other signs of termites in the winter, such as mud tubes or damaged wood.
How to Get Rid of Winter Bug Infestations
The best way to get rid of winter bugs is to prevent them from coming indoors in the first place. However, if they’re already inside, we’ll give you some tips for dealing with them.
Make Your Home Less Insect-Friendly
Since insects come indoors in search of food, water, and warmth, do your best to remove these incentives.
- Store your food (and your pet’s food) in containers with tight-fitting lids, and throw away food waste promptly.
- Since many insects are attracted to damp environments, fix any roof or pipe leaks and use a dehumidifier in unventilated areas like crawl spaces, basements, and attics.
- Although you probably don’t want to make your home less warm in the winter, you can make it less accessible by caulking any cracks or crevices that could serve as entry points.
Kill the Insects
Obviously, the specific solution you need may depend on the type of pest you’re dealing with, but there are some methods that can eradicate a number of pests.
Broad-spectrum insecticides come in sprayable liquid, powder, and granule form, and some may be more appropriate for specific applications than others. Make sure, however, you choose an insecticide designed for indoor use that will not endanger any children or pets living in the home.
Alternative means of pest control include the use of diatomaceous earth, which damages the exoskeletons of insects that walk over it, causing them to dehydrate. Although this is non-toxic, it’s dangerous to inhale and useless when wet, so purchase food-grade diatomaceous earth and use it cautiously. The same applies to boric acid powder, which is technically organic but should be kept away from pets and young children.
You’ll also find claims that many essential oils—peppermint, lemongrass, and neem oils, just to name a few—or substances like cinnamon work as “natural” pesticides or pest repellents. These are more appealing for home use because they’re less toxic than synthetic pesticides. However, remember that a repellent is not the same thing as an insecticide, and these products will need to be reapplied frequently to be effective.
When to Call in the Pros
For nuisance insects, you can always try a DIY approach first. However, when your health is at stake—for instance, if you have a bed bug or cockroach infestation—it’s often worth calling a professional right away.
After all, during the winter months, you’re usually less likely to spend time outdoors, so you may feel trapped inside with the bugs. A pest control professional can often help solve the problem quickly and efficiently.
Our Top Picks for Professional Pest Control
For either one-time treatments or regular pest control visits, Terminix is our first choice based on its wide availability and excellent service guarantee. For a free quote, call 866-569-4035 or fill out this quick form.
If your winter infestation needs urgent same-day service, we recommend Orkin, which prides itself on cutting-edge pest control techniques. Enter your contact information or call 877-868-1416 for a free estimate.
Although Bulwark is only available in select urban areas, its high standards of customer service make it one of our top nationwide pest control companies. To find out if you’re in one of its service areas, visit the website or call 844-567-2094.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can mosquitoes survive the winter?
While male mosquitoes tend to die when temperatures drop, female mosquitoes can live off their nutrient and fat reserves through the winter. They will stop feeding in the fall and go into diapause, but become active again in the spring.
Can insects freeze to death?
Yes, and many do. Insects aren’t warm-blooded and must rely on external heat sources, so their body fluids will freeze at a certain temperature. To survive, they must either avoid the cold or tolerate it with the use of antifreeze proteins.
Are any insects active in the winter?
Obviously, many of the insects that invade your home can remain active during the winter because of the temperate indoor climate. However, a few insects like winter stoneflies, midges, and snow flies can remain active outdoors, even in cold temperatures.
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