Survival of the insects in the winter
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Survival of the Insects in the Winter. By Albert Zheng. Going Dormant. Some insects go dormant. Go into a state diapause Can withstand lower temperature than those who remain active and longer survival time Some can survive in -42 degrees Celsius. Diapause. Two Class of diapause .

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Survival of the insects in the winter

Survival of the Insects in the Winter

By Albert Zheng

Going dormant
Going Dormant

  • Some insects go dormant.

    • Go into a state diapause

    • Can withstand lower temperature than those who remain active and longer survival time

      • Some can survive in -42 degrees Celsius.


  • Two Class of diapause.

    • Freeze Susceptible Insects

      • Avoids freezing temps, depends on antifreeze compounds

        • Main compound is Glycerol

          • High viscosity in low temps.

    • Keeps body fluid and tissue from freezing

  • Freeze Tolerant Insects

    • Only the body fluid freezes, freezing the living cells forcing water out of the cell making it more tolerant to freezing cold temp.

      • Called cryoprotectant


  • A temporary state of suspension and sleep, which makes the insect completely immobile.

    • Example: New Zealand weta, flightless cricket, that likes to live in high altitude.

      • In the evening, it would freeze solid and in daylight, warms it up and comes out of torpid state and resumes activity

Remain active
Remain Active

  • The honey bees would cluster together and use their body heat to keep themselves and their brood warm.

  • Lady bugs lays on top of each other under rocks to share heat.

  • Grasshoppers lay there eggs deep in the ground to keep warm.

  • Ants and termites head below the frost line where there they store their food to last all winter.

Size matters
Size Matters

  • Insects are like bags of water.

    • So the larger they are, the more water they will contain.

      • The smaller arthropods, like ants and tiny spiders, can withstand more harsh temps than bigger ones like the grasshopper.

        • True about the same species too, ex: a smaller house fly will last longer than a larger one.


  • A dry environment is more beneficial for some insects to survive in than humid environment.

    • For example the freezing point of a housefly can be lowered by 50 degrees if it is dehydrated.


  • An insect with an empty gut will last longer than an insect with a full belly.

    • Food extracts water that can freeze and form ice crystals which will freeze an insect quicker.


  • The intensity and duration of the cold temperature is critical to an insects survival.

    • If exposed to long in these temps, the insects will die, even in moderate cold temps.


  • Some insects migrates to warmer climates.

    • Like the Monarch and Painted Lady Butterfly.

      • Migrate south in late summer and return in the spring.

      • Will fly up to 2000 miles to spend winter in Mexico

    • Many other butterflys and moths migrates seasonally too.

      • black cutworm, fall armyworm, green darners.

  • Other insects migrate only to nearby habitat

    • For example fields to woodlands , groves, hedges, or shelterbelts .

Growth stages
Growth Stages

  • Some stages an insect can be in to survive longer than others that are not in these stages.

    • The non-feeding stage like egg and pupae.

    • Others build protective structures like cocoons and papae.

      • Like tomato hornworms who spends their winters in a pupal stage and buries itself several inches deep in soil.

      • No surface moisture that could cause freezing.

    • Eggs; Ex: Praying Mantids stay as eggs in the winter

    • Larvae; Ex: Woolly bear caterpillars curl up in thick layers of leaf litter.

    • Pupa; Ex: Black swallowtails chrysalides in the winter.

    • Adults; Ex: Morning cloak butterflies hibernate as an adult for winter, tucking themselves behind loose bark or tree cavity.


  • In the winter, light fuffy snow can provide an insect insulation more than packed snow.