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Information iconMilkweed provides cover and nesting habitat for overwintering pollinators. (Photo: Courtney Celley/USFWS)

When summer ends and temperatures dip in the northern climates, your work as a gardener isn’t done. At least not if you want to attract pollinators next season.

While it may seem that all your insect friends have fled south, overwintering pollinators are really just quietly hunkering down until warmer weather returns. You can help them.

When the mercury falls, many insects put their development on hold and wait out the winter in a state known as “diapause.” Some butterflies and native bees overwinter as larvae, seeking shelter in leaf litter or by burrowing deep into the ground. Others, like dragonflies, stay beneath the ice in nymph form.

Praying mantids lay eggs that are able to survive freezing temperatures, and some moths stay in a non-feeding pupal stage all winter long. Many pollinators, such as ladybugs, stay mostly dormant while hiding in tree holes and under logs and rocks. Meanwhile, other brave beetles and flies are just waiting for a few warmer days to take a winter flight. Certain pollinators, like the rusty patched bumblebee, take only a short repose and can be out and about by March looking for the earliest blooms.


Hibernating ladybug photo by Rob-Simmonds-Creative-Commons.jpg
A dormant ladybug shelters in the frost-covered stalk of a winter plant. (Photo: Rob Simmonds/Flickr Creative Commons)

To make your garden friendly to overwintering pollinators vital to our ecosystem, take these  easy steps:  

In readying northern gardens and yards for winter, keep in mind that by doing less you may actually be doing more for pollinators. Insects that find shelter under the cover of leaves and brush and a fresh snow blanket will be able to rest and ready themselves for next season’s vital work in growing foods and flowers. See our “Bee Ready for Winter” infographic.


Compiled by   |  December 2, 2021


Information iconUnpruned stems provide nesting sites for insects in winter. (Photo: Anna Weyers/USFWS)