Increases in thermal variability elevate metabolic rate due to Jensen's inequality, and increased metabolic rate decreases the fitness of dormant ectotherms by increasing consumption of stored energy reserves. Theory predicts that ectotherms should respond to increased thermal variability by lowering the thermal sensitivity of metabolism, which will reduce the impact of the warm portion of thermal variability. We examined the thermal sensitivity of metabolic rate of overwintering Erynnis propertius (Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae) larvae from a stable or variable environment reared in the laboratory in a reciprocal common garden design, and used these data to model energy use during the winters of 1973–2010 using meteorological data to predict the energetic outcomes of metabolic compensation and phenological shifts.