We have entered the micro-season of “Hibernating Creatures Close Their Doors”. This is the second micro-season of the mini-season of Autumn Equinox. The micro-seasons within Autumn Equinox are:
- Thunder Lowers its Voice (Sep 22 – Sep 27)
- Hibernating Creatures Close Their Doors (Sep 28 – Oct 02)
- The Paddy Water is First Drained (Oct 03 – Oct 07)
These seasons were established in 1685 by Japanese astronomer Shibuka Shunkai and are specific to Japan. However, just because the calendar focuses on Japan doesn’t mean it isn’t applicable to others. No matter where you live you can use these seasons as a starting point for your personal exploration of the world around you.
As a way to celebrate this season, we will look at the strategies animals use to survive the winter and then read some haiku by Shiki, Basho, and Issa.
What is Hibernation?
Hibernation is an adaptive strategy that allows animals to survive the cold, dark months without migrating or searching for hard-to-find food. Hibernation usually occurs in the winter months. Animals that are hibernating have minimal activity and depressed metabolic function.
Not every animal that transitions into a hibernation stage enters what is called True Hibernation. Brittanica defines true hibernation as “body temperature is close to 0° C (32° F); the respiration is only a few breaths per minute, and the heartbeat is so slow and gradual as to be barely perceptible.”(1) Hibernators survive by relying on body fat reserves and residing in a well-protected den. An animal in true hibernation stays in this state until they are exposed to warmer temperatures. Since the animal is so cold, it could take several hours for an animal to wake up from true hibernation.(1,2)
Some of the mammals that enter true hibernation are bats and members of the Rodentia order including woodchucks and ground squirrels.(2) Since hibernation is an adaptive strategy used to survive periods of cold and limited food, the exact time animals enter hibernation depends on your location. For example, woodchucks in Vermont usually enter hibernation in October, whereas those in Alaska may enter hibernation in September.(3,4)
Do Insects Hibernate?
Insects have two main strategies to survive the winter months: migration or entering some sort of dormancy period.(5)
Monarch butterflies are perhaps the best example of insect migration. The monarchs from the eastern parts of North America migrate to Mexico for the winter, while monarchs in the western parts of North America migrate to Southern California. Monarchs usually reach their winter residences in October. (6)
Dormancy in insects is typically separated into two larger categories: Diapause and Quiescence.
Diapause is described as “suspended or arrested development during an insect’s life cycle.”(8) Diapause may occur at any stage of the insect’s development (egg, larva, pupa, or adult) and is cued by environmental factors. The factors that might bring on diapause include the length of the day, outside temperature, food quality, and food availability. Diapause is regulated by the insect’s genetics so it may occur during the winter, but it may also occur at other times as pre-determined by the insect’s life cycle.(9)
Quiescence is defined as “a temporary slowing down of metabolism and development in response to adverse environmental conditions”.(11) Quiescence may be initiated by environmental factors such as extremely high or low temperatures or drought. Quiescence ends when favorable environmental conditions return. Quiescence is different than diapause because it is a response to a change in environmental conditions rather than part of the insect’s genetics.
The environmental changes that occur in late September and early October may trigger either diapause or quiescence in insects depending on the species and your location.
Late September and early October are when we usually see our first frost in the northeastern parts of the United States. The first frost has the potential to kill many small insects like crickets, cicada, and katydids. So it is around this time that the insects start to implement their winter survival strategies. Therefore, it makes sense that this week’s haiku will focus on the experience of insects in the autumn and winter.
Autumn come cicada husk, crackling (Translated by L. Stryk)
winter garden— the moon too a thread: an insect's song (Translated by David Landis Barnhill)
"It's cold!" the insects' complaining has begun (Translated by David G. Lanoue)
don't get hoarse katydid! tomorrow is autumn too (Translated by David G. Lanoue)
evening cicada-- a last nearby song to autumn (Translated by David G. Lanoue)
Lanoue points out in his biography of Issa on Haikupedia that Issa is “known and celebrated for his compassion for both humans and animals”. Lanoue continues by stating Issa’s compassion for his “fellow creatures, human and nonhuman, is a hallmark of his philosophical and poetic approaches to life.”
A Haiku Invitation
This week’s haiku invitation is to write a haiku or senryu that references hibernation. Maybe you can take inspiration from Issa and write a haiku about insects!
Share your haiku in the comments below, or post on your own page and link back to this post. I can’t wait to read what you write!
(A.J. Wilson from Let’s Write got us started earlier this week. Check out that post here!)
- “Hibernation”; Britannica.com
- “Snug in the Snow”; Environmental Education for Kids
- “Woodchucks”; Vermont Fish and Wildlife
- “Marmot”; Wildlife Notebook: Alaska Department of Fish and Game
- Ben Panko; “What Do Insects Do in Winter?”; Smithsonian
- “Migration and Overwintering”; US Forest Service
- “Where Do Insects Go in the Winter?”; Smithsonian
- “Diapause”; Wikipedia
- “Diapause in Insects”; Though Co
- “Where Do Insects Go During The Winter”; Thought Co
- “Quiescence”; Wiktionary
Shiki’s haiku was retrieved from R. R. Dunn; “Poetic Entomology: Insects in Japanese Haiku”. Basho’s haiku was retrieved from “Matsuo Bashō’s haiku poems in romanized Japanese with English translations” edited by Gábor Terebess. Issa’s haiku were found on David G. Lanoue’s Haiku Guy.
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