Winter special! The snow dwellers

The story of insects who defy the cold.


Picture yourself in a snow-covered meadow. Winter is here, and even with the sun shining, it is very cold.

[wintery wind and winter bird sounds fade in]

Here in the lower alps, most insects are waiting for better weather to come. Asleep in a sheltered place, probably in a form able to endure this hostile temperature. But you, my dear, you are part of the ones who want to make the best of these trying times.

Hi and welcome to the Insect Insights, chill insect stories to relax and wonder, available wherever podcasts are. Today, the story is chiller than usual as it is the winter special! I am Max, your host, and I hope you are ready to dive into insect knowledge for another insight.

The benefits are appealing: instead of waiting for several long months, just doing your best not to get killed by the frost, to be active and to take advantage of this otherwise lost season. You insects rarely live longer than a year, and you should spend most of it hibernating?

Unfortunately, it is not so easy. For beings as small as you are, warmth is a volatile resource. You can simply not count on the heat-inertia bigger animals rely on.

Only through a physiological prowess, little snow insect, are you able to reach the surface, and move. Move, when your body should be frozen. The accumulation of specific chemicals allow you to be supercool. And that’s not extreme popularity among insects, but the ability to keep your bodily fluids liquid below their normal freezing point. Along with these, your whole body is adapted to function at these low temperatures. Your ancestors were flying insects, but you even had to get rid of your wings as you committed to your wintery lifestyle.

All ready to make the snow cover your dwelling place, you can enjoy tranquility. Very few other insects push the boundaries of physiology far enough to walk when you do, so you have few encounters to fear. You can travel long distances easily, and without being disturbed. In search of a mate, or of a new place to establish yourself, you walk with the satisfaction of using the colder part of the year to its full potential! No time lost of you.

When comes the summer, then you can sleep. It will be too hot for you anyways.


Bale, J.S. (1987) ‘Insect cold hardiness: Freezing and supercooling—An ecophysiological perspective’, Journal of Insect Physiology, 33(12), pp. 899–908. Available at:

Hågvar, S. (2010) ‘A review of Fennoscandian arthropods living on and in snow’, European Journal of Entomology, 107(3), pp. 281–298. Available at:

Vanin, S. and Masutti, L. (2008) ‘Studies on the distribution and ecology of snow flies Chionea lutescens and Chionea alpina (Diptera, Limoniidae) in Italy’, Italian Journal of Zoology, 75(2), pp. 147–153. Available at: