AskDefine | Define overwinter

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. To keep or preserve for the winter.
    It is best to overwinter tender plants indoors.
  2. To spend the winter (in a particular place).
    Insects may overwinter in fallen fruit if it is not removed.

Extensive Definition

To overwinter is to pass through or wait out the winter season, or to pass through that period of the year when “winter” conditions (cold or sub-zero temperatures, ice, snow, limited food supplies) make normal activity or even survival difficult or near impossible. In some cases “winter” is characterized not necessarily by cold but by dry conditions; passing through such periods could likewise be called overwintering. Alternately, overwintering can refer to spending winter in a more favourable (usually warmer) locale.
Hibernation and Migration are the two major ways in which overwintering is accomplished.

Common uses

The term overwinter is used in several contexts. Some of these follow:
  • In entomology, overwintering is often the term used to describe how an insect passes the winter season. Many insects overwinter as adults, pupae, or eggs. This can be done inside buildings, under tree bark, or beneath fallen leaves or other plant matter on the ground, among other places. All such overwintering sites shield the insect from adverse conditions associated with winter. Activity almost completely ceases until conditions become more favourable. Other insects, such as the monarch butterfly, migrate and overwinter in warmer areas.
  • Many birds migrate and then overwinter in more southerly latitudes where temperatures are warmer or food is more readily available.
  • Plants are sometimes said to overwinter. At such times, growth of vegetative tissues and reproductive structures becomes minimal or ceases completely. For plants, overwintering often involves restricted water supplies and reduced light exposure. In the spring following overwintering many plants will enter their flowering stage.
  • People are also described from time to time as overwintering. This was especially true in the past during the exploration of the planet when people had to pass the winter in places not ideally suited for winter survival, and even today in the polar regions. Today people may be said to overwinter when they temporarily move to warmer areas during the months of prevailing cold weather in northern latitudes, such as people from various parts of North America staying in Florida, Arizona, or New Mexico (among other places) for parts of November to March.
  • In plant pathology, overwintering is where a plant pathogen survives the winter during which it's normal crop host species is not growing by transferring to an alternative host, living freely in the soil or surviing on plant refuse such as discarded potatoes.
overwinter in German: Überwinterung
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