Micro-Season: “Hibernating Creatures Close Their Doors”

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.

True Hibernation

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)

Woodchuck Photo by Niklas Jeromin on Pexels.com
Woodchuck Photo by Niklas Jeromin on Pexels.com

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. 

Cricket Photo by Jimmy Chan on Pexels.com
Cricket Photo by Jimmy Chan

Seasonal Haiku

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,
(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!)


  1. “Hibernation”; Britannica.com
  2. “Snug in the Snow”; Environmental Education for Kids
  3. “Woodchucks”; Vermont Fish and Wildlife
  4. “Marmot”; Wildlife Notebook: Alaska Department of Fish and Game
  5. Ben Panko; “What Do Insects Do in Winter?”; Smithsonian
  6. “Migration and Overwintering”; US Forest Service
  7. “Where Do Insects Go in the Winter?”; Smithsonian
  8. “Diapause”; Wikipedia
  9. “Diapause in Insects”; Though Co
  10. “Where Do Insects Go During The Winter”; Thought Co
  11. “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.

Want to support our work? Visit the Naturalist Weekly bookstore and browse our curated lists of books of poetry and haiku. Or pick up a gift card that can be used throughout the store.   

Naturalist Weekly also accepts donations for coffee and journals.


40 thoughts on “ Micro-Season: “Hibernating Creatures Close Their Doors”

Add yours

  1. Hi Mark,
    Another wonderful post from you! You put a great deal of time and effort into these posts and I thoroughly enjoy reading and researching them.
    Love the poem ‘The Bear’. Susan Mitchell is new to me and I will look for her work. I followed your link and find that she is from Scotland; coast to coast only about a dozen miles from Northern Ireland where I live! I raise this because not long ago I read ‘The Last Bear’ by Mandy Haggith who whilst not from Scotland does live and work there, in Assynt. She teaches at the University of the Highlands and Islands. The book, fiction, really stirred up my emotions regarding how humans have treated the earth and in particular its inhabitants (the bear). I have other connections to her work as she helped guide me with some of my earlier poems.
    Regarding the seasons, I am also following the App you mention, however, I came across a new book, ‘Light Rains Sometimes Fall’ by Lev Parikian. Its subtitle is ‘A British Year Through Japan’s 72 Seasons’. Obviously it has more direct relevance to the seasons here so I’m reading it slowly taking a current mini-season at a time! It will take a year to read so can’t write a review (GoodReads) until this time next year! 😊
    The sun is shining right now, so whilst the Starlings gather on the telephone wires I’d better go and put the covers on some of the garden furniture! Have a great weekend. 🙋‍♂️

    1. Hi Ashley, Those are some wonderful connections! I love finding all the linkages between people, stories, poems, and other than human animals. It’s kind of like an energetic network. An energetic mycelium network perhaps?
      I heard that Parikian was releasing a book on the 72 seasons. I am looking forward to reading it. It will be interesting to see similarities/differences in climate between northeastern United States and the British Isles.
      Have a good weekend. Talk soon!

  2. This is all lovely, but especially love “The Bear” and was delighted when I clicked on link for the full poem to see that the bear dances beneath the apple trees. Talk about imagery. Thank you for this post, Mark.

  3. I agree with you about imagery in “The Bear” …. as if the bear was coming away from a dinner party (after imbibing too many apples) and searching for a new home. And what a wonderful flip of going from apple-drunk to “Her breath leaves white apples in the air.”

  4. Mark, I was just reading part of the 72 seasons app for this section last night. Thanks again for telling me about it. It does such a good job of linking us with the tiny details of each small section.
    Here are 2 poems I wrote about bears and hibernation:
    Finally, here is a beautiful youtube I watched earlier today that I think you will appreciate:

    1. Hi Lisa, thank you for your poems! I am looking forward to reading them. And thanks for the video. I truly appreciate the extra information and resources. Thanks again!

  5. Great haiku and I fell in love with Susan Mitchell’s work upon reading The Bear. Love the information about micro-seasons and the name of hibernating season. Wonderful post. 🙏

    1. Thank you for your comment! I am glad that you enjoyed the poems and resources. Mitchell’s poem is great. I really enjoy her writing style.

  6. Yes, our black bears in the Pacific Northwest, which is a temperate forest, go into a state of torpor, not true hibernation. Many people are often surprised to see bear prints in freshly fallen snow or their bird feeder ransacked in December.

    1. Hi Melanie, seeing bear tracks in the winter must be pretty confusing for people. The idea that concept of hibernation is the same for all beings seems to be common misconception. I definitely don’t remember being taught about torpor in an biology class. But then again I was a horrible student.

    1. Thank you! Definitely ran into some technical difficulties when trying to update last year’s post. I think I learned something about the system and will just create new posts. Hopefully the one you read had a link back to your haiku.

  7. Great post, I didn’t know any other hibernators besides bears before I read it. Microseason report from here: Deer change to winter coats, squirrels racing around caching food, birds keep checking the empty bird feeder, and the humans wear flannel shirts. Happy Autumn, folks.

  8. I was so confused to see that I had already liked and commented on this post, but I see it is a re-post from last year. This time around my thoughts are: “Hibernating Creatures Close Their Doors” is my favorite title of the 72 microseasons and I find the idea about whether insects hibernate or not particularly interesting.

    1. Hi Melanie, yes your are correct about the repost. It didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped. I ended up re-writing most of the post so some of the comments may not even make sense anymore. Lesson learned! Thanks for reading again. Have a good weekend!

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