Where Do Bugs Go for the Winter?

By Dr. Killigan
Where Do Bugs Go for the Winter?

Except mammals and birds, all creatures are cold-blooded. This means that unlike mankind, insects and spiders are unable to maintain constant internal temperatures. They are at the mercy of nature’s elements, especially during the winter months. All bugs have to go somewhere (or do something) to pull through the winter. Many know instinctively how to survive:

  • Honeybees shiver their way through the winter, the constant motion of their wings keeping the inside of the hive warm and the queen safe and protected.
  • Spiders survive the winter by producing antifreeze compounds (or more specifically glycol compounds) in their bloodstream. These compounds build up in their tissues and lower the temperature at which a spider would freeze, even when exposed to below-freezing temperatures.
  • Mosquitoes, like bears, hibernate through the winter. When temperatures fall below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, they begin to search out and then burrow into the ground, trees, logs, or other safe places, hiding out until the weather warms again.
  • Ants avoid the winter altogether. They have the ability to drop their body temperature, slow down their movements, and seal up their underground colonies, remaining inactive deep in the soil, underneath rocks, and beneath logs or mulch.

There are others, though, that instinctively want to come inside your house. They have adapted themselves to finding shelter in the warmth of your perpetually-70-degree home. They’re not great at shivering their way through winter, producing their own antifreeze, hibernating, or avoiding winter altogether. They are fantastic, though, at hiding.

A few years ago, I was in Dubai, headed to my hotel for the evening in the hopes of catching an early dinner before studying the plethora of notes that I had carefully scripted on insects that thrive in year-round warm climates. As I veered around a corner, careful to avoid a small rain puddle during my early February visit, I witnessed a man being mugged. Horrified, I called out to the police, unsure of whether or not I should intervene. Within seconds, the police appeared, though now that I think of it, I’m not exactly sure how they managed to come so quickly.

Then, because I witnessed the incident, I had to speak with the authorities—a somewhat lengthy process which could not be completed until the following day. So, to the police station I went the next morning to speak with a detective. As I waited near the front desk, a lone brown cockroach scurried past me, with its long antenna feeling its way along its route. While I sat there pondering my day and its unexpected plot twist, I watched this lonely bacteria-full roach while I waited for a detective to take a statement from me. The roach's head, bent downwards, made it appear deep in thought. Perhaps it was wondering where its next meal would come from. I was in a similar predicament.

I then heard the footsteps of a detective, who subsequently—and promptly—took my statement in the lobby. As I rose from my chair, my thoughts quickly shifted from that mysterious fight the previous night. I was now pondering the lives of cockroaches and other pests that were bent towards certain temperatures. Would the same Dubai bugs survive North American winters? Would certain species try to overwinter in my home?

What (North American) Bugs Come into Your House to Survive the Winter?

Asian lady beetles, boxelder bugs, stink bugs, and cluster flies must overwinter somewhere warm to survive. In doing so, they become house bugs (and nuisances). They are poikilothermic (or cold-blooded) creatures that must generate their own heat and they can only do that through external means. If they want to survive, you’ll find these four common winter-house-bugs knocking on your door... or more likely slipping through that crack next to your door frame.

Will These Bugs Sleep in My Home?

These creatures will happily sleep the winter through in your home, remaining in a state of diapause (or seasonal dormancy). Many times, they’ll go completely undiscovered, quietly slipping into and back out, never to have announced their temporary (free) lease on your home and the vast comforts it provides.

Where Do These Bugs Hide in My Home?

These bugs will seek out warm low-traffic spots. It may be in wall or ceiling voids, behind floorings, baseboards, or draperies, or even inside furniture. They will also seek out attics and basements. Their goal is to find a location that is quiet and free from human activity, where they can remain relatively immobile and secure.

Asian lady beetles can be found nestled together in corners of attics or garages, or near doors and windows.

Boxelder bugs can be found inside around windows, in doors and window casings, in wall voids, in attics, and around building foundations.

Stink bugs will seek out the comfort of your walls, your attic, or your crawl spaces.

Cluster flies will head to dark areas including attics and wall voids.

Will These Bugs Lay Eggs in My Home?

If Asian lady beetles, boxelder bugs, stink bugs, or cluster flies overwinter in your home, these insects will not lay eggs, as they are in a seasonal state of dormancy, their breeding frenzies placed on pause until they have exited your home. 

Other great news about these four is that they will not eat or infest your food, create nests, or cause any structural or ornamental damage in your home. 

How Do These Four Overwintering Bugs Get into My Home?

It’s important to have a basic understanding of how Asian lady beetles, boxelder bugs, stick bugs, and cluster flies will attempt to get inside of your home. Knowledge is power and will equip you with the know-how when you encounter these overwintering pests and how to keep them from coming in in the first place. 

Asian Lady Beetles

Asian lady beetles will begin seeking shelter when outside temperatures fall, as their disposition is towards warmer temperatures. They will find their way into tight cracks and crevices, such as under siding or in wall voids. From these vantage points, they’ll stealthily make their way into your home by squeezing through tiny cracks in window sills, door jams, or foundations. 

DIY Tip: As lady beetles are known for their agricultural and horticultural benefits, the best way to get rid of their indoor presence is to vacuum them up and release them outdoors. The ideal winter-outdoor-release-time is between 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., as this is when the day tends to be the warmest. 

Boxelder Bugs

As the weather cools, boxelder bugs will push into cracks and spaces around homes to insulate themselves from the colder temperatures. You may be unfamiliar with the name of this bug, but probably not its looks. Boxelder bugs are ½ long, have red and orange markings, and adore boxelder trees.

If you’re seeing them around your home, it’s most likely because they’re getting food nearby. Boxelder bugs feed almost exclusively on the seeds of boxelder trees, trees that are incredibly common in nature and are treated more like a weed due to their ability to rapidly grow on their own in nature. The female tree is commonly recognized for the seed pods, or "helicopters," that drop to the ground in the fall. If you have these trees in your neighborhood, you’re more likely to have a boxelder infestation.

DIY Tip: Do not kill boxelder bugs in wall voids, as their dead bodies will attract carpet, or dermestid, beetles. Rather, use a vacuum cleaner or a broom to remove them, tying them up in a bag and disposing of this bag in an outdoor trash can.

Stink Bugs

Seasonal triggers alert these bugs to begin scuttling for cover and find winter quarters. Unfortunately, their preference is for your home and they can pile into cracks and crevices by the thousands, where they will stay cozy and warm and happily sleep through the winter. They may enter through vents, chimneys, damaged roofing, and minute openings around your doors, window frames, and utility lines.

Plant-based insect killer spray

DIY Tip: Vacuum up stink bugs and dispose of the vacuum bag outside, cleaning the surface with Six Feet Under Non-Toxic Insect Spray and a washcloth. Cleaning these areas regularly—where stink bug (and other insect) activity is seen—will make them far less attractive to pests. Note: You may want to tie stink bugs tightly up in a bag so that they won’t reinfest your home. 

Cluster Flies

If you’re wondering what happens to flies in the winter, cluster flies are the most common fly found indoors during this cold season. Cluster flies, also known as attic flies, frequently use buildings for winter shelter and gravitate towards the highest part of the affected structures. Though commonly mistaken for the housefly, cluster flies move slower than houseflies, are slightly larger, and have wings that overlap when resting. They also like to gather in large groups in sunny locations.

Common access points for cluster flies include cracks around baseboards, windows, or door trims, and around fans, lights, and utilities.

DIY Tip: Prevention is key, as once cluster flies are in your home, it is unwise to spray any type of pesticide within your wall voids, as dead cluster flies will attract other pests. Vacuum up any cluster flies that you do see and make sure to seal up your home pre-winter.

Are Cockroaches and Silverfish Common in Homes in the Winter?

Cockroaches and silverfish, too, do not do well with cold temperatures and will seek out the warmth of your home. The difference, though, is that these miscreants—in a warm, sheltered, food-rich environment—will continue their regular breeding and replicating activities in your home all winter long. If the environment is right, they will not enter a state of diapause. 

Cockroaches

As temperatures drop, cockroaches will seek out shelter in warm places, most often in our homes and offices. These buildings provide them with everything they need to live the winter through—warmth, access to water, and an abundant supply of food. 

DIY Tip: The best non-toxic means of forever ridding your home of cockroaches is through the use of diatomaceous earth (DE), a powder that is made from the fossilized remains of tiny, aquatic organisms called diatoms. The greatest means of precise and effective dispersal of this powder is via the Insect Buster, a handheld tool engineered to maximize the usage of DE and other insect powders.

Silverfish

These nocturnal pests prefer relatively damp, humid environments and will gleefully seek shelter in your basement, your attic, or underneath your kitchen or bathroom sink as the temperatures fall.

DIY Tips: If your home tends to be humid during the winter months, consider using a dehumidifier, which will keep silverfish from taking up residence. Too, baking soda kills silverfish eggs. If you think that you may have a silverfish infestation on your hands, sprinkle baking soda on the carpet and around your baseboards and let it sit for a few hours before vacuuming it up.

How Do I Keep Bugs out of My House in the Winter?

  • Purchase the Insect Buster, both as a preventative and reactive measure. This tool, filled with diatomaceous earth or another non-toxic insect powder, is a safe, non-toxic means of pest control. DE damages the exoskeletons of insects as they walk over it by absorbing the fats and oils (from their exoskeleton cuticle), ultimately causing them to dehydrate and die. Indoors, it can be applied behind appliances, along baseboards, around window sills, around electrical outlets, in cracks and crevices, and anywhere else where these small invaders are entering your home. Outdoors, it can be applied around the base of trees and the perimeter of your home, thus preventing these creatures of nature from gaining entrance in the first place. The Insect Buster has multiple uses, both inside and outside your home. 
  • Use Six Feet Under Non-Toxic Insect Spray. This plant-based, non-toxic, kill-on-contact spray will immediately rid your home of any bug activity that you encounter. Use it to wipe away any pheromone rich trails that any of these miscreants have left behind. Without a trail, pests can get forever lost and will be less likely to return to that same location.
  • Create a less permeable house. Seal cracks around windows, doors, siding, utility pipes, behind chimneys, and underneath the fascia and other openings with good quality silicone or silicone-latex caulk. Repair or replace damaged screens on doors and windows. Know that you can do your own pest control and triumph over these invaders.

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7 comments
  • Wow! What incredible bits of information. I feel so much better going into winter, now knowing how to DIY myself against these home invaders. I can especially attest to the Asian Lady Beetles. They swarmed to the warmth of our Maine home all winter long even took a swim in my morning coffee. We didn’t want to kill them all but it was a never-ending infestation. Glad to know I have some ammunition in my pocket for future reference.

    Elyse on
  • Hello V, That is a great question. Indian Meal Moths will find a warm dry place for winter and enter a state of dormancy. Before resting for winter, Indian Meal Moths will often lay their eggs, which will not hatch until spring time. Please contact our Customer Service Team if you have any further questions or if you would like some tips on how to best protect your home from these winged invaders. Cheers, Vanessa and the Dr. Killigan’s Team

    Vanessa on
  • Wow! This is so interesting. I did not realize each type of bug had its own method for surviving in the winter. What happens to Indian Meal Moths in the winter? I have had an infestation for the past few weeks and I want to know what to expect as the temperature goes down.

    V on
  • So very cool. I will be sharing tidbits of this information with my son. He’s so very curious about nature and its inhabitants.

    Marie on
  • Thanks for all of the DIY tips regarding each of the bugs. It’s interesting to read that some insects and arachnids have their own methods for how to survive in cold weather. I had no idea that spiders could create their own insulation to keep them warm below freezing temperatures. That’s crazy!

    Aaron on

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