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Where do all the minibeasts go in winter?

Once temperatures begin to drop in autumn, most adult minibeasts, (or to use a more scientific term, invertebrates) fall into two main groups; those that die before the winter sets in and those that adopt clever strategies to help them survive the harsher winter months. 
 
The first group includes insects like mayflies, craneflies, crickets, dragonflies and most butterflies and moths. With the coming of winter, the adults will die either due to starvation or exposure, but not before they have made sure that they have left offspring ready to take over from them once the temperatures creep up again. Their young will spend the winter as eggs, larvae or pupae, so avoiding the worst of the weather.
 
For those that try and survive the winter as adults, the majority will try and find shelter. Some may find this under stones or dead leaves or in the hollow stems of plants. In fact, anywhere that is dry and protected from the wind, ice and rain! Once tucked away in a safe, dry hiding place most will stay there until the days get longer and there is a prolonged spell of warm weather, heralding spring. If you take a look inside old logs you may find a variety of hibernating insects including queen hornets, bumble bees, carrion beetles and female earwigs. While if you look under old flower pots or stones you may find hibernating snails sealed up with a dried lid of slime (epiphragm). If you’re lucky you may also find hibernating clusters of ladybirds in the corner of sheds or window ledges. Don’t forget that it’s important not to disturb the sleeping minibeasts because if they wake up before the weather is suitable they may die.
 
However, some minibeasts only sleep lightly and will be woken up by a few days of warmer weather when they will leave their shelters and pop out to look for food. This is why you may occasionally see the odd sight of a bee or a butterfly out foraging for food on a sunny winter’s day.

Photo credit: Tamsin Bent


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