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Where Do Pests Go in the Winter?

When winter rolls in on the East Coast, it seems like a lot of pests just…disappear. But where do they go? Do they all just die? And if they do, how do they always come back in full force when the weather warms up? 

Some animals hibernate 

Frog on a pond lily pad

Some common house critters go into a state of hibernation, or a state similar to hibernation. These include: 

  • Bats
  • Snakes 
  • Woodchucks
  • Frogs
  • Hedgehogs
  • Skunks

Some of these creatures, like hedgehogs and skunks don’t technically hibernate, but instead enter what is called a state of torpor. In a state of torpor, an animal will lower their breathing rate, heart rate, and temperature. During this period, animals spend more time in whatever den or burrow hole that they use as shelter, leaving only on occasion to collect food. 

What is hibernation, anyway? 

According to the Australian Academy of Science, hibernation is a way animals conserve energy to survive adverse weather conditions or lack of food that involves physiological changes such as a drop in body temperature and slowed metabolism. Think of the state of torpor that we talked about above, but with more significant changes to body temperature and metabolism, and no exiting the state to go search for food; in a state of hibernation, animals feed off of body fat or munch on food that they have specially stored for their hibernation. 

Some animals search for warm shelter

Winter squirrel

This one you’re definitely familiar with. Some animals do not hibernate, and like humans stay totally active (outside of sleep) year-round. Often, the best place that they can find is none other than a human structure with plenty of food and a comfortable, heated climate — in other words a home that is probably a lot like yours. These are the types of animals that you need to be most conscious of nesting in your home when temperatures drop, like: 

  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Squirrels 
  • Raccoons

Hibernating critters like skunks and bats can also be an infestation threat because they will try to hibernate inside of your home. 

What happens to insects in the winter? 

All insects don’t just have one fate in the wintertime — just like with animals, winter behavior varies based on the type of insect. 

Some search for warm shelter

Cockroach side profile

For example, cockroaches cannot survive temperatures under 15 degrees Fahrenheit, but that doesn’t mean that all cockroaches simply die on an especially cold North Carolina night. Cockroaches instead opt to search for a more survivable living environment which means- you guessed it- cockroaches will try to make their way indoors, typically in places where humans can be found. Spiders will also overwinter indoors, and insects like termites will continue munching away at silicone if they are already infesting a house. 

Some insects “hibernate” (enter diapause)

Honey bee flying through the air

Other insects- especially crop pests- will simply migrate to warmer places where they can continue feeding on crops. Some will go into a sort of hibernation state: female mosquitoes find shelter and enter what is called a “diapause state” during winter, some ticks reduce activities and build up body compounds to protect them from cold temperatures, and honeybees enter a semi-active state and stay in hives during the winter, forming clusters when temperatures fall and vibrating their wing muscles to raise their temperature. 

Some do die…but their babies don’t

Some insects do die. Lots of insects will try to find warm places to overwinter, but ultimately cannot find a warm enough place and ultimately fall victim to the cold weather. So how do these insects always return in the spring? It comes down to grubs (not that kind of grub). While many adult insects die when temperatures cool, their larvae do not. Some are able to replace the water in their bodies with glycerol a sort of natural anti-freeze. Others will burrow deep into the soil to stay warm, only to re-enter their growth processes when the weather warms up, coming out in full force come spring and summer. 

Treating pests in the winter

Some pests might slow down in the winter, but we don’t. If you are having problems with mice, rats, squirrels, or any other pests that plague homes during the winter, we can help take care of the problem, and implement pest management tactics that will protect your home all winter and beyond. Just get in touch with us to talk about how we can help!

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