Stinging Insects And Winter
It’s obvious enough that when winter comes around, few if any insects stick around. They always show back up when spring rolls around, but where do they go in the meantime? Do they all die off, leaving nothing but eggs and buried larvae waiting for the thaw? For some species that’s exactly what happens, but that’s not the case for most stinging insects like bees and wasps. These insects use different strategies to survive, and you can find a few variations.
Honey happens to be a great source of instant calories, and that comes in handy when winter comes and bees can’t go out and gather pollen anymore. Instead, they stay in the hive and swarm around the queen, warming her by waving their wings and shaking their bodies. That takes a lot of energy, so the bees use up a big part of their honey reserves so they can stay active all winter long.
Unlike honey bees, bumble bees don’t maintain their colonies through the cold months. Bumble bees don’t make nearly as much honey, so instead the queen bees will find a relatively warm space where they can hide from the weather and predators while all their worker bees die. Because of this, bumble bee queens have to start from scratch and build a completely new nest when spring arrives.
Paper wasps have a similar winter cycle to bumble bees, although they’re a little more likely to hibernate in a home since they often build their nests under the eaves of a house or a garden shed. If there’s any space for the queen to fit through, she often will so she can hibernate in peace. Wasp queens don’t always reclaim their nests when spring begins, but even if they don’t it’s a good opportunity to tear down the old nest when no wasp is calling it home.
Stinging insects like wasps and bees usually keep to themselves when winter comes, but that’s true about most insects and arachnids when the weather turns cold. However, they can sometimes end up in homes and other buildings thanks to their need to stay warm during hibernation, which is why it’s a good idea to have a pest control expert inspect your house for entry points and stop them up before winter really gets going.