Termites can live through temperatures of 2 degrees C below freezing for 72 hours. The water in insects contains sugars and other substances that depress the freezing point. In termites, freezing occurs between 4 and 5 degrees C below freezing. Temperatures below -5 C will freeze and kill Reticulitermes flavipes within 1 h. Insects with extreme cold tolerance can survive freezing and thawing. Reticulitermes flavipes has no tolerance to freezing which is 100 percent lethal.
How does Reticulitermes flavipes survive the winter in the Northern US? With little cold tolerance, they must burrow underground below the freeze line. Termite colonies will die if the ground freezes below the depth they have burrowed. Moving north from the US border, the ground freezes to increasingly greater depths in the winter. Reticulitermes flavipes does not burrow deep enough to survive winter freezing north of its current range.