On a blustery, cold day in the middle of winter, insects seem scarce. But don’t be fooled. Even though you might not see them, insects are all around you. They are overwintering somewhere. Just like many of us, insects don’t like the cold, so they try hard to keep warm when temperatures drop. To survive the chilly days of winter, some insects lay eggs that will hatch in the warmth of spring. Some migrate to areas with warmer temperatures, and still others find a hiding place and sleep through most of winter. You might find eggs, larvae, pupae, or even adult insects overwintering in old tree stumps, in rotten bark, under fallen leaves, under the plastic you forgot to take out of the garden, or right in the ground your walking on.
When you’re finished looking for insects outside, go inside and look for insects right inside your own house. Look in corners, house plants, stacks of old newspapers, recycling bins, piles of firewood, and cabinets, and you just might be surprised what you find. You might see a house spider crawl out from a dark corner into the light. House spiders are ideal for catching any flies, moths, or mosquitoes that have invaded your home. The common house fly is present in nearly every home sometime during the year, even during the winter. In our area, house flies overwinter as larvae or pupae. However, in heated buildings some adults may survive and continue to breed throughout the winter. If you keep fruit in your kitchen, you have probably seen a few fruit flies. These flies develop rapidly and can produce almost 25 generations a year. Each female fruit fly lays up to 100 eggs. Another pesky insect that is easy to find is the fungus gnat. You will find this insect (it will probably find you rather than you having to go looking for it) living in the soil, or saucers, in and around your houseplants.
Silverfish are also likely winter visitors. The silverfish prefers damp places such as basements. Silverfish like to feast on book bindings, papers, cards, and boxes - they all make appetizing meals for this creature.
Earwigs may unsettle you when you discover them indoors. Luckily these creatures live most of their lives outside. Earwigs overwinter as either eggs or adults, and the adults will dig as deep as six feet beneath the ground to avoid the cold winter temperatures. If you find one in your home, it has probably come in search of warmth. Earwigs do not bite, but, if handled, they might pinch with their cerci. Watch out! The larger males can have a painful pinch.
Few insects have proved themselves more persistent unwanted houseguests than ants. Ants are social insects: they live in colonies (large groups) in the ground or in the foundations and walls of buildings. A colony contains numerous workers and a queen. The ants you see crawling around your house are workers attending to the needs of the colony and the queen. When an ant searches for food, it makes a trail for the other ants to follow by laying down a scent from its abdomen. That is why you usually see ants in a line - they are following the trail of the first ant.
During winter or at any time of the year, and no matter how hard people would like to, we can’t forget about cockroaches! No one likes to see these brown, shiny, flat-bodied creatures scurrying around the house, but you need a lot of luck to eliminate them completely. Cockroaches boast a long and impressive history: they have been around for 350 million years and are among the earliest insects. In some parts of the country, people have to contend with three or four inch cockroaches. In this area the biggest ones are usually only one or two inches long. In prehistoric times cockroaches were six to ten inches long. We should all be glad we do not have to contend with those.
Now you know about a few of the insects that might join you during the cold days of winter. Sometimes we don’t like the idea of insects sharing our space, especially if we find a small colony of ants in the kitchen. We have to realize insects always have been and probably always will be a part of our lives. If you do find yourself face to face with some unwanted winter visitors, just help them along to their natural overwintering site: catch it in a jar and release it outside.