Are Insects Cold-Blooded? (How do they Survive Winter?)

It is estimated that there are about 10 quintillion insects around the world at any given moment (that is 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 insects!). Are all of these insects cold-blooded? 

Are insects cold-blooded? Insects are indeed considered to be cold-blooded. Cold-blooded, also known as exothermic, means that they cannot produce their own body heat. Some insects will avoid the cold completely in order to survive.

For example, the monarch butterfly will spend springs and summers up north, but in the fall they will migrate down south. Monarch butterflies spend all winter in areas in Mexico in order to ensure the survival of their species. Other insects will continuously reproduce in southern areas where it is warm and then populations of these insects will go north and colonize up there. 

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Firebug red insect colony on tree trunk bark
Firebug red insect colony on tree trunk bark

Certain insects that do not migrate to warmer areas in the winter may spend winters under plants or burrow themselves into the soil. The problem with the cold and insects actually does not come from freezing to death. Instead, ice crystals will form inside the insect’s body. As these ice crystals expand and burst, they cause damage to the insect’s body and organs.  

What is the difference between warm-blooded and cold-blooded animals? 

Cold-blooded animals cannot regulate their internal body temperature. Warm-blooded animals are animals that are able to regulate their body temperature and maintain a good body temperature. Warm-blooded animals are more adapt to different temperatures and changes in temperatures.

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Cold-blooded and warm-blooded animals also have some other differences relating to temperature. Cold-blooded animals get their energy from their environment, where warm-blooded animals get their energy from eating food. The changes in the environment do not impact the metabolism rate of warm-blooded animals, but the metabolism rate of cold-blooded animals changes with the changes in the environment.

Also, the body temperature of cold-blooded animals will vary with the environment, but warm-blooded animals have a steadier body temperature that usually ranges from 95 degrees Fahrenheit to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. 

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What other animals are cold-blooded? 

Monitor lizard
Monitor lizard

Cold-blooded animals include reptiles, fish, and amphibians, as well as insects. Some examples of reptiles are snakes, lizards, and turtles. Some examples of fish include sharks, goldfish, and clownfish. Some examples of amphibians include frogs, salamanders, and axolotls.  

What animals are warm-blooded? 

Mammals and birds are both groups of animals that are warm-blooded. Some examples of mammals are humans, dogs, and horses. Some examples of birds are penguins, ducks, and flamingos. 

Are there any insects that are warm-blooded? 

All insects are cold-blooded. During the day time, insects will absorb heat from their surroundings. Once their body temperature gets warm enough, they are able to use their energy to search for food

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How do cold-blooded animals survive the winter? 

There are many different ways that cold-blooded animals survive cold winters. Some cold-blooded animals will slow their body processes down and they almost stop completely. This is called diapause and the animals will hide under stones or logs or in old burrows. Some insects, as well as some crustaceans and snails, do this.

Some other insects will lay eggs in the fall before dying. For example, female spiders will lay their eggs in a fluffy cocoon that they then hide in. Then after the long winter, thousands of tiny spiders are released from the cocoon in the spring. Some creatures, such as snakes, go into a state called “brumation”.

During brumation, snakes become less active and their metabolism lowers drastically. It is similar to hibernation, but it is different because animals in brumation will wake up and get food and water if there are any periods of warmer days throughout the winter.  

Do any insects live in really cold places like Antarctica?  

Places that are freezing are not really the most ideal place for cold-blooded animals to live. In Antarctica, there is only one native insect. This insect is the Antarctic midge. This insect is a flightless bug that is smaller than one centimeter long. This insect spends about nine months of the year frozen and only moves around for the three warmest months of the entire year. 

Read more about the Antarctic midge in our post.