A few species of caterpillars have been known to hibernate, but no caterpillar species hibernate for all of the winter.
Some caterpillars feed on plants that go dormant for the winter, and not only do they hibernate with their host, but some will also even burrow into the ground with the plant’s roots to wait out the cold and snow.
Some caterpillars are able to survive winter weather by using a combination of protective structures and behaviors. For example, one species raises its head and front legs above its body, forming a “roof” over its body when it senses cold air.
What does a hibernating caterpillar look like?
Caterpillars, like any other type of hibernating animal, protect themselves by burrowing under leaves, under loose tree bark, under rocks, and inside corner spaces of homes that are not heated. The process is a long one, extending from the end of fall until winter.
The caterpillar will form a cocoon using its own silk and the silk it extracts from leaves. It will also eat the leaves and create a layer of insulating fat over its body to protect itself from the cold temperatures.
What do caterpillars do in the winter?
Some caterpillars endure winter by burrowing under leaf litter or squeezing into bark crevices. Others pupate as winter approaches and stay in this state until spring. Caterpillars don’t always stay in caterpillar form through changing weather conditions.
Ultimately, caterpillars are known to survive winter weather in many different ways. Some have the ability to hibernate, while others use their behaviors to survive and will feed as soon as plants start coming back into season. While butterflies can surely survive in cold temperatures, it makes sense that they migrate south for the winter if they can get there!