What if we tell you hibernation doesn’t mean sleeping but is actually a state of slowed metabolism, and bears are, in fact, awake during hibernation.
Many animals hibernate when the environment is not optimal for their survival. This could mean extremely hot or cold weather or food shortages. The process of hibernation involves physiological changes like slowing down of metabolism and a drop in body temperature to save energy. This allows them to survive on fewer resources than they normally could.
In this article, you’ll most definitely learn something new about the unique hibernation techniques of the 13 animals that hibernate in our list.
So let’s get right into it.
So you know how humans like to snuggle up in a cozy blanket during the colder months? Well, bears take that to the next level by hibernating for the entire winter- grizzly and black bears hibernate for over 100 days!
Now, you might be thinking, “Wait a minute, if they’re sleeping all winter, how do they survive without food and water?”
While hibernating, bears rely on a layer of fat built up in their bodies to sustain them. They increase their appetite before hibernating- sometimes even gaining up to 30 pounds a week!
They then reduce their heart rate, body temperature, and breathing rate to save energy. They don’t have to eat, drink, or even eliminate waste during hibernation.
Interestingly, bears aren’t “true” hibernators since they tend to wake up more often than other animals that hibernate to avoid any potential predators or dangers.
Another popular hibernator is bats, but not all bat species hibernate. Some, like the spotted bat, migrate to warmer areas instead.
Bats hibernate in a very unique way:
During autumn, bats will consume large quantities of food to build up their fat reserves. When the weather turns cold, they seek a safe and sheltered spot to hibernate, such as a cave, mine, or hollow tree. They then cluster together in large groups for warmth.
Bats slow their heart rate, breathing, and metabolism during hibernation to conserve energy. They may go for long periods without moving or waking up, but they occasionally get up to drink or urinate.
One interesting thing about bats’ hibernation is that their body temperature drops to match the temperature of their surroundings.
Did you know snakes go through a different kind of hibernation than all other animals?
It’s called brumation, a state of partial dormancy that helps the snake conserve energy for breeding and other activities when the weather gets warmer.
Rather than packing on fat, snakes build up a supply of glycogen or sugar in their systems. This keeps their muscles in good shape so they can quickly come out of brumation when the temperatures start to rise in the spring.
During brumation, snakes move around slowly and only sleep for short periods, as their metabolism has slowed.
As the winter approaches, snakes eat less and less since digestion is aided by warm temperatures.
Excess food in winter can even rot and kill them!
Lizards don’t only go into hiding in winter but sometimes even during the summer.
In winter, they’ll make their homes in all sorts of places, from tree trunks to rock piles. Because lizards don’t have internal heating abilities, they need to soak up warmth from the sun and their environment to keep going.
During hibernation, most lizards will sleep alone, although some may cuddle up in groups for warmth.
Some lizards will even hit the snooze button during the summer months, too, going into a state of sleep called “estivation.” It’s like they’re taking a long, lizard-sized nap to wait out the hot weather.
5. Stink Bugs
Stink bugs have a unique way of dealing with winter – they basically hit the pause button on life.
They enter a state of suspended animation called “diapause,” where their metabolism stops suddenly, so they stop eating altogether.
They’ll snuggle in leaf bundles, hollow logs, and other cozy nooks until spring arrives.
In diapause, stink bugs can survive for extended periods without food thanks to their lowered body temperature and reduced metabolic activity. Unlike true hibernation, diapause doesn’t last for the whole winter season.
Plus, diapause might help you keep these bugs out of your house!
Insects don’t technically hibernate but instead enter a state of dormancy during the winter months.
Most butterflies and moths spend the winter as larvae or pupae, but some species, such as the small tortoiseshell and peacock, hibernate as adults.
However, other species, like the painted lady butterfly, take a different approach and migrate to warmer locations.
You might’ve seen butterfly hibernation boxes- they’re often just a gimmick. Hibernating insects require a consistently cool temperature, which a wooden box cannot provide.
Furthermore, butterflies choose their hibernation spots, such as sheds or attics.
As temperatures drop, garden snails go on a mission to find the perfect spot to survive the winter. They seek shelter in groups in places like under dirt, leaves, and logs or in tree trunks and rock crevices.
They enter a hibernation-like state to conserve energy and protect themselves from freezing temperatures.
Snails seal their shells with a layer of dried mucus called an epiphragm, slowing their metabolism and lowering their heart rate. This deep rest helps them live long and healthy lives, and some snails can remain in this hibernation state for years.
But not all snails go into deep hibernation. Some snails remain active and only hide away on colder days.
During winter, when temperatures drop below 50 °F (10 °C), honeybees retreat to their hives and form a winter cluster to stay warm.
The success of this cluster depends on a robust population of winter-ready bees, plentiful stores of honey to eat, and a secure hive.
The all-female swarm of bees crowds together tightly to form the winter cluster, with the queen at the warmest core section of the group. At the same time, the workers shake and shiver around her to maintain a survivable heat.
The ideal winter cluster comprises a generation of bees with different physiological characteristics from those of the summer population – plump bees with a longer lifespan of 4-6 months instead of only a few weeks.
You might think spiders migrate into your house during winter, but that’s far from reality.
Most spiders adapt to cooler temperatures by building up antifreeze in their bodies. They then seek out hiding places for the winter, such as the top layer of soil or cracks in walls. Spiders can even live in pods on chimneys or downspouts.
These tough creatures can still move around and hunt for prey in this state.
During the winter, spiders enter a diapause phase, similar to hibernation, where they become sluggish and seek out safe spaces. As the weather warms up, spiders and other insects reemerge to continue their prey hunt.
As the temperature drops, it’s not all doom and gloom for wasps.
While most of them die, some sneaky wasps survive the chill by going into hiding in cozy little nooks and crannies, like the underside of tree bark or the crevices of buildings.
These survivors are mostly female wasps that have already found a mate. The mated queens, also known as “foundresses,” are the ones who take charge in the winter months.
During hibernation, they seek refuge in secluded spots like attics, basements, and closets, facing the challenge of surviving the long winter without food or resources.
Despite the odds, these wasps are true hibernation heroes, waiting for spring to come and bring new life to the world.
As winter arrives, eels become less active at night due to the chilly water temperatures.
They choose to hibernate in the depths of backwaters, drains, and swampy areas until spring, which is confirmed through capturing and observing hibernating eels during marsh excavations.
Interestingly, hibernating eels are tightly curled and covered in a slimy layer.
However, the entire population of eels don’t nap in warmer lakes and spring-fed rivers. Some eels stay up and about during the winter, actively moving and munching at night.
Frogs swear on these 2 tricks to survive harsh environmental extremes: hibernation and estivation.
As temperatures drop in the winter, terrestrial frogs like the American toad take to land, digging deep into the soil, even below the frost line, to hibernate.
Meanwhile, aquatic frogs like the leopard frog and the American bullfrog hibernate near oxygen-rich water.
And when it comes to surviving the dry season in tropical areas, many frog species resort to estivation, a dormant state that allows them to conserve energy until the rains return.
Interestingly, some frogs antifreeze as a unique survival tactic. Some species of frogs, like the wood frog, partially freeze and thaw back to life in the spring after the winter. This happens due to the high glucose concentration in the frog’s vital organs.
Who doesn’t know about these adorable creatures after the hype of the chipmunk movies in this century! What is even more adorable is the way they hibernate.
The extent and timing of their hibernation can vary depending on the species and the local climate.
During hibernation, chipmunks go into a state of reduced metabolic activity in order to conserve energy. They may sleep for extended periods of time, sometimes for several weeks at a time.
Chipmunks typically build a winter nest in a burrow or other sheltered location, and will store food for the winter months before they enter into hibernation.
In general, chipmunks in colder climates tend to hibernate for longer periods of time than those in warmer regions.