What Happens to Bugs in the Winter?

ladybug on grass with frost or ice

Insects are loved and hated in equal measure. Some bugs are very beneficial to our gardens. For instance, bees are important in pollinating many plants, while at the same time, some insects act as pests that can affect the health of your flowers. There are those who wish to have bugs around the year, while others would do with fewer bugs in the environment.

Thankfully, we have seasons that regulate the prevalence of bugs. In some seasons, the bugs may multiply fast and increase while in others, they are forced to run to hiding. Winters are among the harshest weather conditions for humans and other animals. Bugs are also affected by the cold in the winter in different ways. So how exactly does the cold weather affect bugs?

Temperatures and Bug Survival

Just like humans, bugs can only survive in a certain environment. Once the temperature cools beyond the level where they can survive, bugs may die. However, the bugs we have in nature manage to survive through cold winters due to survival strategies. The most common strategy used by most insects is to hide underground or bury themselves in the barks of trees until the winter is over. Such protective measures work well for most insects until the winter is over. However, there are a large number of bugs that do not see it through winters due to the freezing cold temperatures.

With that said, the level of cold that makes insects disappear depends on the climate. In recent years, climate change has led to warmer winters which have allowed some bugs to explode in numbers. If we don't experience cold winters that may force insects to go into hiding, the rate of multiplication may increase. This explains the exploration in numbers of some of the insects. If winter temperatures do not get cold, most bugs make it to spring unstretched and ready to multiply. For instance, there has been an increase in the number of deer ticks. These insects have now spread to the North, in regions they never roamed.

firebugs tree winter

Does Cold Temperature Kill Insects

The simple answer is yes, the colder the temperatures the more insects die. When temperatures drop below zero, many insects die. However, there are also many insects that can survive below zero temperatures. The duration of the cold season also determines the number of insects that die. While some bugs can survive in sub-zero temperatures, the duration of the winter may mean that they stay for long without food. Insects that naturally collect foods and store them in their underground bunkers are more likely to survive as compared to those that have to feed for food on a daily basis.

At What Temperatures Does an Insect Die

The actual temperature required to kill an insect varies from species to species. For instance, the emerald ash borer can withstand temperatures as low as negative 20 Degrees F. If it gets colder than that, most of the bugs will die, but most can remain if the temperature doesn't stay cold for long. At about negative 30 degrees F, most bugs, including those that are resistant to cold temperatures die.

ant in melting snow

Do all Insects Die in Winter

While many insects are affected by the cold winters, there are plenty of insects that thrive. For instance, beneficial insects such as bees are less impacted by winters. This is food news given that bees are among the most important bugs to gardeners and farmers. If you are worried about the death of bees due to your gardens, you do not have to worry anymore. Bees and many other flying bugs can withstand the winters. In most cases, flying insects flee to areas that are a bit warmer during the cold winters.

bee hives in winter

All Year Round Insects

There are some bugs that are not affected by changes in seasons as much. These are the bugs we refer to as all year round bugs. For instance, fleas are all year round bugs but they may die if the temperatures are deeper than negative 20 degrees F. However, for fleas to die, low temperatures have to be sustained for more than 10 days. With that said, most in-house bugs including fleas, bed bugs, and lice can survive all year round. As long as the bug is inside the house, it will not be affected by the winter.

hornet in snow


Bugs can be quite a nuisance and any natural control measure is welcomed. However, there are some bugs that are beneficial that we may want to have around for long. No matter your side of the divide, winters present a challenging time for most bugs. During winters, some bugs have to lose their life while others have to stay in hibernation until it is time for them to come out. Whichever the situation, bugs are affected by the cold in one way or another. However, this does not mean that all bugs have to die due to the cold temperatures.