Do Cold Winters Kill Bugs?

We often get asked if the cold temps in winter means fewer bugs in the spring and summer. We have the answer.

Cold winters do not kill as many bugs as you might think. All insects possess some ability to endure cold weather. One widespread strategy involves burrowing underground, beneath leaf litter, or under tree bark for protection and hibernating throughout the season. These defensive tactics generally work well, ensuring insect populations remain relatively stable during most winters.

However, a recent series of warmer-than-average winters has caused the populations of certain insects to surge. When winter temperatures never reach extreme lows, these insects survive until spring unharmed and ready to reproduce.

For example, deer ticks which can carry Lyme disease – which are actually eight-legged arachnids, not insects – have been found in larger numbers and have expanded their range farther north than before. When temperatures plummet well below 0°F, many individual insects perish. The colder it gets, the fewer survive. Unfortunately, the ground where they seek shelter remains warmer, allowing them to endure even the coldest conditions.

Most ticks can survive a deep freeze.

How Cold Does It Have To Get?

The actual temperature required to kill off pests varies across species. The emerald ash borer, for instance, can generally withstand temperatures as low as -20°F. Any colder than that and about half of their population dies off. At -30°F, even more of the invasive pests are wiped out.

Some individuals will inevitably survive, but the reduced numbers could be beneficial to other species. For instance, a substantial reduction in the number of emerald ash borers could slow the predicted extinction of American ash trees. Similarly, gardeners and homeowners aren’t likely to complain if the Japanese beetles or brown marmorated stinkbugs become less abundant next summer.


Fortunately, beneficial insects like honey bees, already threatened by commercial pesticides and parasitic mite infections, are unlikely to be affected by a cold winter. Bees hibernate in their hives during the winter, clustering together for warmth, and reemerge in spring to continue their annual feast on flowers.

Bees hibernate in their hives for the winter.

What About Fleas?

Fleas are a year-round nuisance, but they can die off outdoors when temperatures drop below freezing. In fact, once the temperature falls to 37ºF, it’s cold enough to kill mature fleas, eggs, larvae, and pupae. However, these temperatures need to be sustained for 10 days or longer, and this only applies outdoors.

Fleas can be a nuisance year-round.

Inside the home, where it is comfortably warm, fleas can thrive all winter long regardless of outdoor temperatures. Often, pupae may become dormant in cooler areas like basements or crevices, only to re-infest when the temperature rises. It may be necessary to treat pets year-round to prevent infestations.. Check out these natural remedies to kill fleas here. 


According to Ohio State University, the temperature has a strong influence on termite activity—both on a daily and seasonal basis.  In fact, some methods used by professionals in climates that never dip below freezing involve the application of liquid nitrogen. Termites exposed to freezing temperatures without shelter are usually killed within a short period of time.

The impact of cold winters on reducing bug populations remains uncertain. We will have to wait for further observations.

Can Cold Weather Ever Be A Good Thing?

Got Stinkbugs? Here’s how to get rid of them.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Farmers' Almanac - Itch
Jaime McLeod

Jaime McLeod is a longtime journalist who has written for a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites, including She enjoys the outdoors, growing and eating organic food, and is interested in all aspects of natural wellness.

Notify of

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Welp, despite subfreezing temps for at least a week, tdmps over 100 for over a month and no food. What ever these little black biting mite size bugs are, they survived everything I threw at them plus the diatomaceous red earth. I brought the bedding stored in plastic bags and now have mites all over me again. So..despite extended extreme temps, insecticide and other stuff..they survived.

Michael Goff

You mean that with all of human recorded history , we dont know ,yet? Lol
Bring on the cold …just in case. And I ride a motorcycle year around!

Anthony Coleman Sr

So many people wish for a freeze to kill all of the bugs and insects and it’s not going to do a single thing in most cases. Especially places as Oklahoma, we’ve had a really nice January if for some reason it does snow a couple of inches it can not stick.

Lisa Cypert

Maybe this year it will be different with the winter freeze we just had, wind chills down to nearly 30 below here in Tulsa, OK.

vena miller

What will kill asp? Live in Texas. Will cold weather kill them

Mike Hutchko

Did not see any mention about chiggers. Where I live we’ve had almost 2 full weeks of below freezing weather.

Dale Hoover

Jaime, has the Farmer’s Almanac weighed in on the mini Ice Age that has commenced? If so I must have missed it. What is their stance on the subject please? Thanks!

Dale Hoover

Jaime, – has the Farmer’s Almanac weighed in on the mini Ice Age that has commenced? If so, I must have missed it. What is their stance on the subject? Thanks!


The best way to eradicate the beetles and stink bugs.
Take a spray bottle, approx 1 litre, fill with water and add one teaspoon of dish soap. Not detergent. Give a little shake and spray the bugs. The die within 10 seconds. What ends up happening, their waxy exoskeleton washes open, they suffocate immediately. The exterior of the skeleton are their lungs, when their wax melts , it’s plugged. Instant clean death.


We have had those terrible asian beetles now for a month here in central Kansas. It is Nov.16 and is 81 degrees outside. Crazy. Will they ever go away and the flies are terrible too. Lived here 30 years and have never seen anything like this.

Karen Kriete

Does the colder weather kill fire ants? If so how cold with length of cold snap. I live in upper SC.

Vera Doumanoff

yes, hoping the bad pests die, but as beekeeper, the cold has impacted our hives. Out of 8, looks like we lost more than 6. We gave them extra food and insulation anticipating colder than usual. Predictions are summer is warmer than usual through Farmer’s almanac. We’ll see. We ordered more bees from the south. We have orchards all around us and hoping for a good honey year. Go good pollinators and boo for the bad bugs! When you eat your fruits and veggies, thank a beekeeper! Just saying….


The insect population in the north central part of the US has taken a big hit along with fish. Many ponds are now fish dead. Except for mosquitoes (dead fish can’t eat larvae) most flying insects are absent. Most birds that usually eat those, and bats, are also gone. Very few warblers, red-wing black birds, wrens, wood peckers, starlings, fly catchers, etc. The wrens came in and nested as usual but only flegged one brood and called it quits. Last year they did three. Herons are having a tough time and most are gone. All of the fruit trees have no fruit this year. We have no wasps and very few spiders. Of course this will impact the amphibians and snakes since they have a very reduced food sources this year. This die off will cycle for several years I think. I wonder how much is being caused by the vast patches of ocean garbage changing ocean heating patterns? Adding pesticides to 49,000 square miles of lawns in addition to all that are sprayed on crops can’t help. It is an ecosystem collapse.


Sadly this very cold winter in Ontario seemed to make ticks worse. I don’t get it 🙁


I hope this winter will make a big difference in mosquitoes & ticks in SE, PA. Still searching the web for comments/predictions on this.


To DaWanda, we were advised that the Asian beetle (looks like a yellow lady bug) takes refuge under your house siding and a good way to control their population is to power wash your house every spring. We also have a siding mold problem in our area, so we add a small amount of bleach to the power wash cleaner. We have almost entirely eliminated the beetle problem.


My house has been invaded by the Asian Lady Bug all winter. They are seen in every room of my home! One bit me on the hand last week! I think they lay their eggs under anything they can crawl under and they hatch when the temps get warmer. They can crawl through to the inside of your house. I wish I knew a good cure for squash bugs and borers. They ruin my squash every year!


Jamie, I was thinking about the first flowers(bulb) to emerge in spring. Their pollen seems heavier, not in the air. Is it a heavier pollen to feed a very hungry bee?


In response to Patty in Montana whose daughter was diagnosed with Lyme disease, the young (nymph) deer ticks can be the size of a poppy seed. If you are bitten by one it is easily missed. Symptoms will not appear until 2 weeks after and may start out only as a short-term low-grade fever. If you develop a “bull’s eye” rash it will not necessarily be in the area of the tick bite and could be in numerous locations on your body. Blood tests for Lyme are accurate. Take this seriously. Symptoms of chronic Lyme disease are debilitating.

Jaime McLeod
Michael Carpenter

What temp is required to kill roaches?

Jaime McLeod

Roaches have adapted to live indoors. A very cold winter will not kill them.

Gamble Carmel

that what i wanna know


Hoping the flea population is down here in Northern Indiana. Our dog is on flea pills and I’m a “clean freak”, but last year was the pits!


I’m in Prince George, BC, and hoping that the cold snap we had for about 2 weeks(-30°C) has or will destroy some of the tent caterpillar larvae.


Don’t worry about killing box elder bugs. They eat dead plant material and will not bother your dog. They eat Maple seeds, remove the seeds and you’ll reduce the numbers.

Andy White

Bees don’t hibernate in the winter. Just letting you know

Gale Slack

will it kill the stink bugs,we have them bad in Marshall Virginia


I have noticed a lot of box elder bugs have been making their appearance more so than usual. I am not sure how to kill them when spring comes as I have a dog that uses a pen where these bugs usually are at. I don’t want to spray harmful bug killer inside the pen.


I’m noticing lots of questions, but no answers to them? My concern is more for a diminished population of black flies, mosquitoes, deer flies, horn flies, horse flies… basically, what kind of a summer are my horses going to have?

Jaime McLeod

Native pests are used to local conditions. An exceptionally cold winter is unlikely to affect them to any great degree. Only invasive insects or insects that have expanded their range are likely to be affected.


I thank you for this article. We don’t have many of those pests here in Western Montana but we are inundated with Yellow Jackets and paper wasps, hard to take care of them without getting the bees, they love the traps as well. But I did learn something new, I didn’t know that deer ticks are like spiders, I thought a tick is a tick, just different sizes. Hence, it is possible that our daughter was bitten and ended up with lime disease. We had never found a “Tick” like you do in the mountains and on other critters so strongly disagreed with diagnoses. Hum, seems I owe someone an apology. But Dr.s need to be aware of what “deer ticks” look like as well. thanks again.

merrily westerhaus

Wichita Kansas, will the freezing cold impact snakes? I sure hope so. Hope it will help with skunks.

Kathryn Matty

Need to know will the cold have any affect on fleas. I’m so hopeful, but I feel the nasty little fleas wil be spared!!!!!!

Pam Sanders

What about Africanized killer bees and fire ants? Can we expect to see less of them due to the severe winter we’ve had here in Tennessee?


what about Praying Mantis egg pods? after 3 years I finally had some Mantis’ lay egg pods-really hoping they survived this bitter cold in NH.
I notice a huge reduction in the tick population every year. and less Stink Bugs..


‘-20 in SWVA hope it killed more than 50%


Best thing for bugs is to stop using chemicals and lat nature take Cate of itself. Here, in my urban-esque area of KY, they spray for mosquitos. 40 min away, my friends have an organic farm, my csa provider. There, you can watch the bats dive bomb the little blood suckers. No issues with mosquitoes as a result. At home I get eaten uo, there nothing. Locally, the cold will help as blue mold for tobacco farmers is an issue and will be reduced. Hoping our winter impacts buggies too.


Jaime, do u think that this cold will kill off some of the pesticides for the bees? Curious! I am hoping so, at least dilute it some.

Jaime McLeod

Cold has no effect on pesticides. They’ll just keep spraying ’em.


In response to Larry Wallace. I lived in Alaska and worked all over Alaska for 21 years… the mosquitoes are out flying while the snow is still on the ground. I really doubt they will be killed off unless some southern climate mosquitoes are not cold resistant… perhaps there is an insect expert around who will respond to the question for your area.


We live in Ontario, Canada close to Perth. It may be wishful thinking, but I would love to see the mosquito population reduced by the extreme cold.


I hope the 4 degrees (not calculating wind chill) we had in western Tennessee will kill of lots of bugs. Mosquitoes, stink bugs and squash borers just to name a few. Although I hope the frogs and toads will go unharmed.


I was hoping to hear something mentioned about grasshoppers. Last year, in the DFW, TX area they were unstoppable. In fact, the last couple of years. After last year, I swore I wouldn’t do another garden unless we got a decent winter that took care of them. I refuse to put all of that work and money into a garden only to have it eaten and destroyed by grasshoppers.

Carolyn Dachenbach

We are in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia. Lots of gnats this past year. Hoping this weather will help destroy them. Hard to get rid of the leaves, that they winter over in, when you live in the woods on a mountain.

Pat Gleghorn

Teri, getting rid of ‘palmetto bugs’, aka roaches-the giant variety-is just a pipe dream. Haven’t you read they could probably survive a nuclear holocaust? When I lived in MS, they would fly in like little kamikazes. If it weren’t for making holes, I would have shot them. Seriously stomping them seemed to be the only solution.


It was 5 degrees in Atlanta during the second week in January, so I believe we will see a noticeable difference in mosquitoes.


Reading the comments! I think it got a wee bit cooler than 17 degrees in neighboring Atlanta, Ga. !!!!
At least where I live in Tennessee it went down to -7 so hopefully some of those Lyme Ticks will bite the dust right along with that Asian Lady Bug look a like.
The imitation Lady Bug has had at least three “die offs” in the house….keep sweeping them up and disposing. When it warms up outside from a good cold spell, they come out and
I’m still amazed at their numbers.
The seem to have access from the attic…mine is an old house (1933) but neighbors with new homes seem to have the same problem.

Larry Wallace

How does extreme cold affect Lyme ticks and ticks in general? Also, how does it affect mosquito larve for the coming year?

Teri Kemper

In Atlanta, GA the coldest temperature was around 17 deg. F. I’m wondering if such a mild low temp. could impact our pest population. I’m thinking specifically of fleas and palmetto bugs.

Plan Your Day. Grow Your Life.

Enter your email address to receive our free Newsletter!