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Bugs are back, but where have they been?

By , 26 September 2019

By Andrea Wild and Bryan Lessard

Insect populations boom during warmer and wetter months. But have you ever wondered where they go during winter?

On holiday

Brown moth with segmented, furry body.

Bogong moths migrate hundreds of kilometres every year
Image: CSIRO Entomology

Bogong moths migrate long distances. Their bodies are 60 per cent fat, which helps them make long flights. (Tasty tip: it also makes them good to eat!)

In spring bogong moths travel to the Australian Alps to escape the summer heat. In autumn, they migrate as far as southern Queensland where they breed.


Wooden log split in half revealing a mound of termites inside.

This termite nest kept warm inside a pole
Image: CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products

Some insects avoid the cold by staying inside their nests or burrows.

The subterranean termite, Coptotermes acinaciformis, is native to Australia and can keep more than a million termites warm in the colony mound during the winter thanks to great insulation.


Green grasshopper on a stem of grass.

The Australian chameleon grasshopper changes color based on the temperature!
Image: ala.org.au/Vik Dunis

Some insects can tolerate freezing temperatures. The Australian chameleon grasshopper, Kosciuscola tristis, from Mt Kosciusko can survive at 0°C!

They have compounds in their blood called ‘cryoprotectants’, similar to your car’s antifreeze. This helps them survive without freezing solid.

Cycling through life

Mosquito larvae under the surface of the water.

In spring, there’s an explosion of mosquito larvae!
Image: James Gathany, CDC

Most adult flies and mosquitoes die in winter. Their young survive in a variety of ways, waiting until it warms up to hatch. That’s why you see a boom of mosquitoes and flies in spring!

In some species, eggs can enter stasis. Others live as larvae at the bottom of ponds or creeks. Horse fly larvae can live for five years in swampy soil, waiting for the perfect time to hatch.

Also in this newsletter:

Magnifying sound
Perimeter pickle
Still alive – a quick quiz

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