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Word of the Week: Diapause

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Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Friday to amp up your nature vocabulary!

Diapause [dahy-uh-pawz] (zoology noun): A period of suspended development and growth accompanied by decreased metabolism in insects and some other animals. It is usually correlated with seasonal changes.

Where do insects go in the winter?

Insects have evolved many different survival strategies to deal with the colder months and one of the most common survival strategies is diapause. Diapause is similar to the hibernation experienced by mammals but there are some differences. One of the main differences is that the insects that entre diapause will become dormant sooner in the season than their warm-blooded friends. Another difference is that, unlike some mammals who might get active for short periods of time during the winter, once an insect enters diapause, it will remain dormant until spring, even if the weather becomes suitable for normal growth and development sooner than expected.

A High Park example of an insect that can enter diapause is the Common Green Darner. This species of dragonfly will use a combination of strategies to survive the winter. The adults will migrate and the nymphs will survive the winter in diapause, resuming the rest of their development after the waters have warmed in the coming spring.

FUN FACT: For most insects, diapause is thought to be mostly triggered by the shorter days leading up to winter (photoperiod), and less by the cold temperatures.