Do Garden Pests Survive The Winter?

Have you ever realized that your garden does not require as much attention during winter as it does during spring and summer? This is because most plants and bugs become dormant in preparation for spring. Because of that, you may be wondering if garden pests survive the winter.

Most garden pests survive the winter. What determines their survival is not how cold it gets during winter, but when spring arrives. Bugs can survive extreme colds as larva or pupae. Also, they may pull through by migrating to safer places or hiding in debris and weeds.

The rest of this article will explain how garden pests survive the winter, the most common garden bugs and insects to watch out for during the season, and ways of getting rid of these pests.

How Garden Pests Survive the Winter

Having learned that garden pests can pull through the winter, you are probably wondering: how do they survive?

Let’s see how these insects endure the chilly weather.


Migration is one way of escaping the extreme cold. These pests may relocate to the southern states during winter and return in the spring.  

Overwintering As Larvae

As the Smithsonian Institute observes, most pests pull through the winter as larvae. In that immature stage, they are protected by heavy covers of leaf debris.

Some bugs also release hormones necessary for producing glycerol, which replaces the water in their bodies. Additionally, these grubs burrow deeper underground to escape the cold.


Garden pests also spend the cold season in a state of dormancy, or diapause. The shorter days and dropping temperatures during the fall season trigger these bugs to produce hormones that lower metabolism.

Also, their energy requirement reduces as the winter approaches. These bugs hibernate during the winter.

Lowering of Body Temperature

Freeze-avoiding garden pests produce proteins that reduce the temperature at which their body fluids freeze. These proteins also bind to ice crystals in the body, preventing the growth of crystals.  

Additionally, some empty their guts to prevent the formation of ice inside their organs.

Examples of freeze-avoiding pests include the emerald ash borer and codling moths. These bugs can endure temperatures lower than 23°F (-5°C).

You should watch this video for a brief explanation of how bugs pull through the winter:

Common Garden Pests To Watch Out for During Winter

Despite most pests hibernating during the winter, some insects are always eager to cram down your vegetables. Here some of the most common bugs that can destroy your garden vegetables during the cold season:

Boxelder Bugs

Although they do not sting or transmit disease, boxelder bugs can be a nuisance during winter. These bugs release an unpleasant odor when smashed.

Boxelder bugs can also cause deformities to your garden fruits or cause leaf discoloration. According to the National Pesticide Information Center, the feces of boxelder bags can also stain colored surfaces. This means the bugs can destroy your garden plant’s leaves during the winter.

These bugs survive the cold season by hiding under debris, in tree stumps, or inside your house.


Earwigs chew the buds, flowers, fruits, and leaves of many plants. Their damage may appear as small, ragged holes in plant tissue. However, such damage may harm or deform your garden vegetable.

Because they are nocturnal, it may be difficult to spot these bugs. These pests overwinter in sheltered areas, such as in piles of firewood or under the side of your house. You should also check under debris for signs of grub.


Garden millipedes are less harmful to your vegetables since they mostly feed on decaying organic matter. However, they can damage soft-stemmed plants in the garden.

Also, you should be cautious when handling these bugs – they secrete cyanide when alarmed.

Asian Multicolored Ladybugs

Asian lady beetles can be a nuisance during the winter. According to the University of Minnesota, when these lady beetles run out of food, they fly to a different location. They infest fruits, notably apples that have wounds or are nearly ripe. Unfortunately, it is well known that the Asian beetle also infests our homes in winter. This insect loves to overwinter in a warm place, and that’s why it will try to infiltrate our homes through the cracks in the walls, our windows, pipes, etc.

In the event of an Asian Lady beetle infestation, it is usually hundreds of insects that invade our homes. For sensitive or allergic people this could be a serious problem as they can cause skin irritation.

How To Get Rid of Garden Pests

Getting rid of garden pests is something you should do as regularly as possible. This should not be limited to specific seasons or times – since, as this article has highlighted, these bugs won’t be eradicated by the cold weather.

Here are some methods you can use to eliminate bugs from your garden:


You should dispose of any debris, infested plants, and trash that harbor pests. Besides, you should regularly check under mulch material for millipedes, earwigs, and slugs. 

Always inspect transplants before you purchase or plant them and bury all debris before the fall ends.

Weed Control

You should keep your garden’s borders trimmed and cultivate them to eliminate unwanted plants. According to a study by Oklahoma State University researchers, weeds can worsen your problems by hosting garden pests.  


You should grow different garden plants after each harvest. Rotation reduces the buildup of maggots, grubs, and wireworms.

Maintain Healthy Plants

You should provide the best growing conditions to your garden plants through proper soil preparation, soil PH (acidity) regulation, and irrigation. This promotes vigorous plant growth.

Did you know that plants that grow in poor conditions are more vulnerable to attacks by pests and diseases? Contrarily, the most favorable germination condition fosters rapid plant growth. Additionally, as this article by the University of Connecticut points out, your garden plants become more pest-tolerant if you provide ideal conditions.


Picking insects off the foliage is one of the effective methods of controlling garden pests. This goes for cutworms, caterpillars, cabbageworm, etc. However, this method requires that you regularly check your plants and it is time-consuming.

Physical Barriers

You can also limit physical access to your garden by pests.

This report by the University of Massachusetts Amherst recommends that you use the following types of barriers:

  • Collars. You can make collars using cardboard or milk cartons by cutting off their bottoms. The collar should be at least 3 inches tall and pushed 1-2 inches into the soil. This prevents cutworms from reaching your garden plants’ stems.
  • Shields. These are bigger collars (6 inches tall with 3 inches radius) made from tar paper and laid on the ground to fit plants and prevent maggot flies from laying eggs at the bases of your garden cabbages.

Chemical Control

Using chemicals should be the last option when eradicating garden pests. Chemical pesticides vary in their composition and effectiveness in alleviating pests. You should buy non-corrosive and safe pesticides. In this case, I recommend the Eco Garden Organic Pesticide from Amazon. This product is safe for use on garden vegetables, berries, herbs, spices, and fruits.

Besides, the recommended pesticide is safe for human beings, pollinators, and earthworms. Despite that, you should follow all instructions keenly and wear personal protective equipment when applying the product.

It is also essential that you apply chemicals only to the infested parts of plants.

This video lists some of the methods you can use to control pests in the garden:

Final Thoughts

Although your garden does not require much attention during winter, and most plants and bugs are dormant during this season, you should never let your guard down.

Most garden pests are resilient enough to survive the winter. They pull through by migrating or producing proteins and hormones that reduce their energy requirements. However, some pests remain active and can be a nuisance if unchecked.

Preventing damage by such bugs requires you to act long before winter. For example, you should practice proper sanitation and weed control, maintain healthy plants, handpick pests, use barriers, or apply chemicals on the affected parts.

Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Anat Goldberg

Hi! My name is Anat and I have lived all my life in the countryside. I grew on a farm in Northern Italy and from an early age, I took care of the animals on the farm and the family garden. Over the years I have developed a growing passion for organic cultivation and pest control.

Recent Posts