Standing in 8 inches of snow on the side of a mountain in Idaho was not where I expected to see a bug trucking along by my feet. As impossible as I thought it was at 23 degrees, there he was, seemingly unaffected. It was a snow flea. An insect so well adapted to the cold that they couldn’t endure the heat of sitting in your hand. Since insects are cold blooded, it would seem that they would freeze up like a glass of water at 32 F. As with any animal, freezing causes ice crystals to form which expand to rupture insect’s cell walls, causing death. A similar thing happens to people when they loose fingers or toes to frostbite. In our part of the world, insects survive freezing temperatures in primarily 3 ways.
1. Run – This is pretty simple, get out of Dodge! The most well know migratory insect is probably the monarch butterfly. They overwinter in Mexico, where I wish I could overwinter!
2. Hide – Although not as glamorous as a Mexican vacation, hiding is an effective means of avoiding freezing temperatures. Some insects bury themselves in leaf litter or soil, while others may seek out cavities in trees or rocks. Just like covering a plant keeps it from freezing, a bug under a leaf is protected from frost. Often, insects can mistake your house or attic for a tree hollow or natural cave as chances are is plenty warm for them to survive inside your garage, walls, or attic. Wasps, lady beetles, and stink bugs are considered invasive pests in the fall and early winter because of their over-winter survival behavior.
3. Fight – Pretty much all insects can fight frost to some degree. Insect blood is not just a glass of water, it is full of salts and sugars. For the same reason that dumping salt on sidewalks or bridges keeps ice from forming, insect blood doesn’t freeze and form deadly ice crystals at 32 F. Some insects even produce special chemicals like glycol to further lower their freezing temperatures. Another very “cool” strategy to fight freezing is super cooling. Water has to have something to grab on to for the ice crystals to start forming. This is called a nucleation source. Some insects purge themselves of nucleation sources, so ice can’t form. Water can be cooled to -44 F before freezing if there is not a nucleation source.
In summary, winter doesn’t bring an end to all insect life. In fact, it can create new problems with overwintering bugs seeking shelter in your house. Pest pressure is less in the winter time in Texas, but we definitely notice surges in pest pressure throughout the winter as our Texas temperatures roller coaster. Also, many of our pests can spend the whole year inside, so they don’t need to worry about freezing. Remember, it’s always Spring temperatures inside your home! For example, we get calls for German cockroaches, fleas, silverfish, and some spiders all year long.
Our winter service is designed to protect against pest surges and year round indoor pests. Also, the slight winter reprieve gives us time to remove spider webs and wasp nests that might have formed during the summer, giving your house a fresh start for the spring. Also keep in mind that we haven’t even started talking about rodents yet, they have much more advanced survival skills…