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Freeze Tolerant Bugs

The chilly, snowy winter weather is supposed to usher in a break from bugs. Unfortunately, some insects enjoy a good snowball fight. While most insects can’t handle the drop in temperatures, other bugs are freeze tolerant. We’ve made a list of bugs that can withstand the frigid winter weather.

What Does Freeze Tolerant Mean?

Icicle

Winter-loving bugs have figured out ways to adapt to cold weather conditions. These species are able to create their own type of anti-freeze, which allows them to endure the cold. This anti-freeze slows down the rate of freezing of their body liquids and prevents the formation of ice crystals in their cells. Once temperatures rise, these bugs thaw and carry on as usual.

Snow Fly

The snow fly, or chionea, is a species of fly that is related to the crane fly. These flies are dark, small and unable to fly. They are found in the northern hemisphere often in wooded areas. They like to hide under logs or in leaf litter. These flies have been spotted walking around with their long legs on snow. They have glycerol in their body, which acts like anti-freeze preventing the formation of ice crystals.

Woolly Bear Caterpillar

Woolly bear caterpillar

These caterpillars have a long history with winter. Woolly bear caterpillars are said to predict the intensity of winter by their coloring. People believe that when the caterpillars have more black bristles than reddish-brown bristles, winter weather will be harsher. Their winter tricks don’t stop there. Like the snow fly, woolly bear caterpillars produce glycerol, which allows their body tissues to freeze while still protecting their cells.

Antarctic Midge

The Antarctic midge is a small, flightless fly. It has a black body and grows to about 6mm. This midge is one of the few insects native to Antarctica. The larvae live under the soil and snow where temperatures are more stable. They spend most of the year in a frozen state. Adults will make their way above ground in the spring and summer. The slightly warmer temperatures underground and rapid cold hardening—the ability for the body to quickly adapt to the cold—allows them to survive Antarctica’s harsh climate. 

Alpine Cockroach

Cockroach in snow

Another freeze-tolerant bug is an alpine cockroach, Celatoblatta quinquemaculata, which is native to New Zealand. It is a small, wingless cockroach with a light and dark brown body. It prefers habitats that are dark and damp. This cockroach is said to survive temperatures as low as 16 degrees Fahrenheit. It is believed that the cockroach has ice-nucleating agents in its body that help it control how fast ice crystals are produced.

Mountain Stone Weta

It seems New Zealand is prone to freeze-tolerant bugs. The mountain stone weta is a yellow and black, flightless insect. It can grow up to 4-6cm in length. It is one of the most well adapted winter bugs on the list. Not only can it survive in a frozen state, it can also tolerate up to 80 percent of its body tissue freezing. In its icy state, the weta is inactive. However, it will thaw once spring arrives.

Seeing insects in the winter may not be the norm, but these bugs aren’t letting that spoil their fun. Their location and freeze tolerance may vary, but they all have one thing in common. Their adaptability has allowed them to survive weather conditions that most bugs can’t.


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