Program of winter entomology (IWES)

This course description relates to International Winter Ecology School

Though snowy winter seems to be inappropriate season for insect activity, some insect species have evolved adaptations to these adverse conditions. During this course students will be introduced to the very special branch of insect science, the “winter entomology”.

During the most part of the course we will try to find winter-living insects.

First of all, there are insects, which are specialized for living above the snow. Among the most well-known Central Russia species of this type are genera Boreus (Mecoptera: Boreidae) (Fig. 1), Chionea (Diptera: Limoniidae) (Fig. 2) and dipterous family Trichoceridae (winter craneflies). All of them inhabit Zvenigorod Biological Station and can be collected in the case of the appropriate weather and if you are lucky.

Second, even during the frostiest periods of winter, the temperature under the snow remains relatively high allowing the organisms to stay active. That is why we will set up the under-snow traps to catch the under-snow insects (and, probably, some other arthropods). Insects collected by these traps will be identified.

Third, many insects hibernating during the winter can be found under the tree crusts, stones and other shelters. During extremely warm thaws they even can wake up and can be encountered on the snow.

At last, during the winter we can observe different traces of other seasons’ insect activity: cut leaves, larvae “roads” in the wood and so on. Thus, the main part of the course will consist of excursions during which we will observe insect activity visible in winter.

Besides excursions, we will give a lecture on insect adaptations to winter conditions.

Individual student project:

  1. Under-snow life in different environments.

    The ecosystem of Zvenigorod Biological Station consists of many types of communities including the grasslands and different forests. Little is known about the differences in their under-snow arthropod inhabitants. To assess these differences we will collect winter-active insects using the under-snow traps in different communities, identify them and compare the species compositions and abundances.