By this time of year, many animals are prepared for the winter season ahead. Animals utilize various strategies to endure winter conditions, such as migration, hibernation, and adaptation. We, as humans, have our own strategies, but how does this season affect a physically small and species rich group of animals, the insects?
A few short months ago, the insect communities across Powell Gardens were bustling among goldenrods and many of the other magnificent blooms fall has to offer. As the transition to winter has begun, consider how insects sustain this season and what you can do to support insect survival in your own garden.
When winter temperatures first arrive in the Midwest, many non-migratory insects enter a state of diapause, a form of dormancy. During dormancy insects infrequently feed and depend on internal reserves of resources for survival. Other known adaptations include increasing energy resources ahead of dormancy, altering internal chemical composition to produce “anti-freeze” compounds, conserving energy use, and utilizing landscape features for shelter.
As stewards of the landscape, providing a diversity of habitat conditions is important throughout the seasons. Consider acknowledging and supporting the needs of insects during the winter, by including leaves and plant stems in your garden from the previous season. In addition to returning nutrients to your garden, plant materials provide areas of protection and heat conservation for insects and other garden visitors!