Where do bugs go in the winter?

Help youth explore and understand how insects survive the coldness as they learn the basic science of entomology.

Insects are all around us during the warm season of the year. However, in the winter when it gets cold, they all of the sudden seem to have disappeared. Except now and then you may see some insects such as ladybugs or box-elder bugs crawling in your home. Your child may ask,“Where do these bugs come from? I thought all bugs disappear when it gets cold outside!”

Adults know bugs don’t just disappear before winter and then magically re-appear in the spring. Insects have developed various strategies to survive the coldness of winter. While some insects migrate south to avoid the cold weather of the north, most insects stay here all year-round. Some species over-winter as adults and use your home as their home. Other species survive the coldness in their immature stage finding shelter in the ground, under leaf litter or in other protected crooks and crevices. Some insects even replace the water in their bodies with glycol, a type of anti-freeze.

Look together with your child for insects inside your home and outside. Help your child identify them and explore how they survive the coldness. You may find insects such as adult ladybugs in a sunny window of your home or wooly-bear caterpillars underneath leaf litter in your yard; your child might find moths in the pupae stage attached to plant branches or underneath chunks of bark. Have your child decide in what life stage the found insect is over-wintering and what is protecting it from freezing.

Simple activities like this one not only may spark an interest in science in your child, but also teach important life skills such as critical thinking, decision-making and problem-solving. If your child is turning into an insect detective and wants to learn more about insects, he or she may want to get involved in the 4-H entomology project area.

Michigan State University Extension has many resources available; contact your local Extension educator for more information.

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