Cold Winter = Fewer Bugs?

February 16, 2014 | By | Comments (0)
Winter & bugs

Photo: Chris Bender

Colder than justice in North Korea — that’s how cold winter has been this year in the eastern half of the country. Cities paralyzed by ice and snow. The Great Lakes frozen over. Pitiful dogs stuck to fire hydrants. So doesn’t it follow that we’ll have a lot fewer bugs to worry about this spring and summer?

No. It is my sad duty to inform you that in return for seemingly endless suffering this winter, you’ll get no break at all. Seems the Man Upstairs likes yanking your chain.

See, when the Big Guy kicked Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, he refused to create another one because that would make gardening too easy for sinners like you and me. So he made bugs super-resilient, capable of withstanding practically anything that nature or people can throw at them. Thanks, Big Guy!

That Really Bites
Take, for example, your favorite insect and mine, the mosquito. There are more than 3,000 species of mosquito worldwide, each perfectly adapted to the weather in its particular habitat. So if you live in the frozen tundra of Siberia, Alaska, or (even worse) Wisconsin, you can bet that a very cold-hardy species of mosquito will show up to greet you as soon as the snow melts.

How does this happen? Some mosquitoes spend winter as eggs in the soil. Others survive as adults inside tree hollows and crevices. Others hang out as larvae in a type of suspended animation in the frigid water under the ice. Long, cold winters may cause them to emerge later than normal, but emerge they will. Very hungry and looking for you.

The Big Sleep
Other insects, like potato beetles and tomato hornworms, ride out the winter by forming a pupa — a small, coffin-like case that drops into leaves and other debris at the base of its favorite food plant. There it lies snug and safe, waiting to awaken at just the right moment. Kinda like Sigourney Weaver in her hibernation pod in the sci-fi movie Alien.

Winter & bugs

Sigourney Weaver is one hot pupa! Photo: universetoday.com

Temporary Reprieves
The cold winter has halted the advance of two foreign invaders, at least for a while. In south Florida, unusual cold has killed thousands of giant tropical apple snails that eat almost everything, including stucco walls. But the dang things reproduce so fast that any survivors will repopulate their new home in no time. In the Midwest, it’s hoped that long stretches of below zero temps will zap the Emerald ash borer that’s killing all the ash trees. But those that survive may just create a race of cold-hardy borers.

What Can You Do?

Winter & bugs

Photo: Steve Bender

Let’s not dwell on the negatives. Instead, let’s focus on action to deal with the harsh winter RIGHT NOW. If you still have pink flamingos out in your yard, shame on you! These tropical birds will freeze out there! Bring them inside immediately.

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