Where Do They All Go

Where Do They All Go?

The skies are grey, the leaves are gone and the forests have grown silent. Another summer of bugs has come and gone.  To some the first frost of autumn heralds the unofficial start of winter but for us insect lovers it’s a somber day; no more katydid songs, no more mantises stalking our rosebushes. “Where do they go” is question I’m frequently asked by Cincinnati Zoo visitors, unfortunately there is no single or simple answer. Here are a few ways our native insects beat the winter blues.

Only The Strong Survive – Some of our most common and most commonly noticed insects such as mantises, walking sticks, katydids and grasshoppers didn’t survive the fall’s first frost but their offspring(of sorts) aren’t so easily dispatched. Each of these summer lovers left behind countless eggs that will outlast the harshest winter and hatch come spring, once again filling our gardens and forests with life.

Stay Inside – If you’ve ever thought “It’s too cold outside, I’m simply not going out” then you’re not alone; when the outside temperature drops below 50 degrees (F) Honey bees crowd into the lower part of the hive and form a “winter cluster.” Worker bees huddle around the queen at the center of the cluster and shiver in order to keep the temperature as high as 80 degrees. In the true spirit of teamwork worker bees will even rotate through the cluster from the inside to the outside so that no individual bee will get too cold. In an effort to keep the hive clean worker bees will venture out on warm winter days for short flights to eliminate body waste.

Prepare For Next Summer, slowly – Misguided people proving to the world ,via YouTube that they can’t really skate isn’t the only thing happening on frozen pond; below the surface life continues scarcely aware of the day’s wind-chill factor or fallen snow. Dragonfly eggs are counting down to hatch day and Dragonfly larvae are maturing, albeit at a slow pace.  It’s a successful life strategy that pesky mosquitoes have perfected as well.

Go Somewhere Warm – If you thought only retirees head south to avoid hockey season you’ve got it all wrong.  Monarch Butterflies migrate an incredible distance, leaving the Cincinnati area in late summer/early fall and flying south-west, ultimately reaching the mountains of central Mexico. The Mariposa Monarca Biosphere Reserve is a 138,000 acre park created to protect the overwintering habitat of the Monarchs and is more than 1,500 miles from Cincinnati. It is the descendants of the butterflies who leave our area that will return the following summer.

These are but a few of the strategies our native insects are using to survive the winter. Here at the Cincinnati Zoo’s Insectarium we’re successfully “fooling mother nature” so that you can see an incredible insect collection all year long.

Winton Ray / Head Keeper – World of the Insects