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WILL THIS MILD WINTER MEAN MORE INSECTS THIS SUMMER?

February 13th, 2012

WILL THIS MILD WINTER MEAN MORE INSECTS THIS SUMMER?

Nancy C. Hinkle, Ph.D.

Dept. of Entomology
University of Georgia

Athens  GA

Insects are durable – winter never kills them all off.

But there are differences in numbers that survive truly harsh winters – with long periods of freezing temperatures – and numbers that persist through mild winters (such as we are currently experiencing).

Here in Georgia we never have temperatures that are severe enough to have much impact on insect populations.  Think about those warm days in any winter when insects are out and about despite snow a week earlier.  They have hunkered down and waited out the cold, then emerged to enjoy the warmth when it returned.

Some insects have antifreeze in their blood, which allows them to survive subfreezing temperatures with no damage.

Mosquito larvae can survive just fine under a sheet of ice covering their pool.  So it’s time to start checking for containers that hold water around your property.  Is there a bucket or tarp out there with a few cups of water in it?  Dump it and put it where the next rain won’t fill it.  Female mosquitoes are already looking for a place to lay their eggs and you don’t want to encourage them around your house.

Most insects have the ability to seek out warm spots to spend cold nights, either under the bark of trees or in cracks around our homes.  One good place to hide is the crawl space under buildings, where temperatures almost never reach freezing.  Another is culverts.  Storm drains provide a cave-like habitat that protects insects from low temperatures (and also provide a cool retreat on sweltering summer days).

A milder winter probably allows a higher proportion of an insect population to survive, thus giving it a head start on building up numbers in the spring.  But by mid-summer there will not be a noticeable effect on insect populations – we’ll just have a lot of bugs as usual!

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