It's a great question: where do all the pests we see over the summer go when the temperatures dip in the winter? The answer to where exactly bugs go in winter depends on the species of bug or insect, as different insects have different overwintering behaviors.
What Is Overwintering?
Insect overwintering is frequently used to refer to an insect "hibernation" of sorts that these bugs use to survive the cold temperatures. Insects can overwinter in any stage of their development unless they migrate.
Most overwintering insect activity takes place outside, but it can also occur inside, in spaces such as attics or crawlspaces. More often than not, these insects go outside come spring and head off elsewhere. You likely won't even know they were there.
Maybe you found a large congregation of dormant insects, or maybe you want to keep bugs from coming in after winter ends—what do you do if you are finding overwintering insect activity around your home, and are there ways to avoid it?
Common Overwintering Pest Issues
While ants are a common issue during warm weather (more on ants below), more often than not, homeowners discover other overwintering insects inside when it's cold out.
The overwintering insects you may deal with vary greatly depending on where you live, but some common examples would be ladybugs, wasps, spiders, stink bugs, and western conifer seed bugs. Even some flies will overwinter inside and emerge in large numbers during the first warm days of spring.
If you have noticed flies, yellow jackets, stink bugs, spiders, or other emerging insects inside or around your home when the warm weather suddenly arrives, it was likely due to overwintering insect activity. To give you some peace of mind, this generally isn't a big deal.
When bugs and insects come out of dormancy, they are trying to find their way outside. Commonly, overwintering insect issues resolve themselves quickly as pests find their way into the great outdoors.
If they emerge inside your living space, you can either open a window to help them out, or use a vacuum and suck them up as they emerge.
Where Do Ants Go in Winter?
As one of the most common pests worldwide, people often wonder where active ant populations disappear to in the winter. As the weather cools, an ant's body temperature drops and it becomes sluggish. Ants begin looking for a place to ride out the coming cold.
Outside, ants overwinter in a variety of areas, such as:
- Deep soil
- Beneath tree bark
- Under patios, rocks, or paving stones
Sometimes, ants end up overwintering inside structures in locations such as insulation in the attic or crawlspace, wall void(s), and basements
Depending on where you live, if you are noticing interior ant activity in the winter, it is possible that you have an ant nest trying to overwinter somewhere in your home.
There are some limited at-home solutions you can try for ants, such as over-the-counter gel baits, but over-the-counter sprays are not recommended, as they are repellent products that can make certain ant issues much worse.
Smart Winter Ant Control
IPM is a system of pest control that focuses on specific pest biology. By looking at what conditions are drawing pests to your home and taking into account factors such as the time of year and the pest's life cycle, you can use IPM to work ahead of your pest issues.
Depending on where you live, winter can be the ideal time to take steps toward controlling spring ant populations by managing their favorite food source: honeydew.
Honeydew is a sticky and sugar-filled secretion produced by aphids as they consume sap from various plants. This honeydew is a perfect syrupy treat for ants (who are naturally drawn to sweet food sources). As part of an ongoing IPM strategy designed to combat ants, a pest specialist will apply a natural, organic oil to the deciduous shrubs and trees on your property where aphids overwinter.
This reduces the number of aphids around your home before the warm weather gets underway, which then limits the number of springtime food sources around your house when the ants emerge eager to eat.
Natural DIY Pest Control Steps for Winter
Insects enter dormancy and seek out safe spaces to overwinter when cold weather rolls in. Discourage them from congregating in and around your home by using IPM to create less than desirable circumstances for them before and during winter.
Keeping wood and other items against the side of the home can encourage bugs and insects to seek refuge from the cold right up against your house. They may even get too comfortable and find their way inside from there.
Some people aren't bothered much by overwintering insect activity. After all, insects are an important part of a healthy ecosystem, and if they're not causing damage or emerging by the thousands, some homeowners are content to just let them be.
If you are someone who really does not like bugs and insects, you are not alone, and when it comes to DIY wintertime pest control, the vacuum is an invaluable tool.
Physically removing these pests with a vacuum would be considered IPM. This solution is natural and prevents them from emerging and reproducing during the spring season. It also saves you from having to look at them while you're stuck inside due to inclement weather.