Winter life for the insects

As we all enjoy some much-needed snow (and warm days in between!) this winter, one of the most common questions we get is about how insects survive the winter. And, as with other parts of insect biology, there are a wide variety of strategies. Using butterflies as examples, each species has its own strategy to survive from one fall to the next spring, or a way to ‘overwinter.’ Check out the pictures below to see how some Nevada butterflies overwinter!

One of the most famous strategies is migration to warmer locations, just like birds. The monarch migrates in the fall from northern latitudes to specific locations in central Mexico, southern Arizona, or coastal California, with the same individuals flying north again in the spring.

Painted ladies may overwinter in warmer areas as well, with populations reproducing all year long in warm climates and some individuals moving north each spring.

Buckeyes are similar to painted ladies; they may re-colonize the same area over and over as it warms up from spring into summer, sometimes returning in huge numbers.

The Melissa blue overwinters as an egg. In late summer, the adult Melissa blue will lay an egg on its hostplant (the plant required by caterpillars to survive), lupines or milk-vetches, and the egg will wait to hatch until the following spring when the plant begins to grow again. When the caterpillar emerges, it will be ready to eat!

The common ringlet overwinters as a caterpillar. Often the caterpillars will roll up inside dead leaves, or tuck in tightly at the base of their hostplant (for the common ringlet that is native grasses), and come out of hibernation when the warm weather returns.