Insects are ever present through the growing season, from butterflies and bees flying between flowers to crickets and cicadas with their unique calls. Every year they seem to disappear in winter and return the next spring. So where do they go?
Insects have a few different ways of dealing with cold weather. One of the most well-known strategies is migration, with a perfect example being the yearly migration of Monarch butterflies thousands of miles from their breeding grounds in the mid-to northern United States to their overwintering grounds in Mexico. As the weather warms up next spring, they have a return migration back to their breeding grounds.
Another strategy is to find shelter in their natural habitat. Many different bees, wasps, and beetles use this method, and go where they’re most protected from the elements, such as under fallen logs and in tree bark. These insects may overwinter in any life stage, from eggs to adults. When social bees and wasps overwinter, generally it’s only the new queen that stays in the hive, and the rest of the colony dies off. In spring, this queen will fly away to develop a new colony elsewhere.
A third strategy is to simply escape the cold by moving indoors. You often see this with stink bugs, box elder bugs, and lady beetles. They will enter in homes, greenhouses, and anywhere else where they can keep warm, and return to their natural habitat as temperatures warm up.
So next time you’re in a forest preserve during winter, remember that insects are probably all around you, just not where you can see them!