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From the Winter 2010 Conservationist for Kids

tent caterpillar egg mass


By Gina Jack

Some insects spend the winter as eggs. Others overwinter as larvae, wrapped in a cozy cocoon for the season. Some spend winter as adults. Diapause (die-a-paws) is the name given to the special kind of dormancy insects go through. During diapause growth is put "on hold." It can begin well before conditions get bad and can last long after conditions have improved. Insects develop glycerol, a sugary alcohol that acts like antifreeze as winter approaches. This keeps them from freezing to death, even though they're above the frost line. The glycerol breaks down when the weather warms, and normal growth begins again.

Where are tent caterpillars in winter?
A close look at trees and shrubs along a forest edge may reveal a hard, shiny, brown material wrapped around the twigs: an egg mass. When spring arrives, watch for tiny caterpillars to hatch out and begin feasting on the buds and leaves. Look especially on black cherry, apple and sugar maple trees.

Adult ladybugs, also known as ladybird beetles, hibernate under the bark of a tree or in the leaf litter near the tree's roots. Sometimes they're even found hibernating in clusters inside people's homes. Don't worry. They won't harm your home and they'll leave in the spring!

Woolly bear caterpillars, larvae of the Isabella tiger moth, spend the winter curled up in a sheltered place-under a log, or perhaps under some loose bark. In spring they'll spin their cocoon and pupate into adult moths.

Mourning cloak butterflies are sometimes spotted on the first warm days of spring. Why are they out so early? They spent the winter tucked under crevices of bark. When the warm spring sun shines on the bark it warms them, too. They'll return to their sheltered hideaway before the cold settles in again as the sun goes down.