Frigid February temperatures could mean fewer bugs come spring

Missouri

ST. LOUIS – The extended freezing weather could impact some insect populations. But when it comes to household pests, there are other things to consider.

“The severe freezing right now will knock a few populations back,” said Ed Spevak, an entomologist at the Saint Louis Zoo. “But what’s more important is what’s going to happen in the spring. If spring comes quickly and it’s nice and wet and warm, even insect pests that we don’t want around can build up very quickly.”

Some of our biggest pests are very susceptible to the cold.

“The marmorated stink bug, which is now here in this area and an introduced exotic species. They are very susceptible to cold weather,” he said.

If these pests are outside, then the freezing weather affects them. But the reason they’re a problem in the first place, they try to avoid the cold all together.

“They come into our houses,” Spevak said. “Asian ladybugs, they do the same thing. They come into your houses in numbers. The Boxelder bugs and others. They’ve found ways to hibernate.”

Spevak says this is why we need to keep our houses nice and tight, to keep these insects from coming into hibernate.

Another issue is that this cold weather can kill off predator insects more so than the pests.

“Cold weather tends to often harm the beneficials more than the pests sometimes. So those sorts of predators which control the pests,” he said.

Depending on the life stage of predatory insects or spiders, many can survive the winter.

“As an egg or as a pupa, many of those have evolved to survive these cold temperatures,” Spevak said. “If they’re adults who have found a way to, found a place to harbor a little bit of crack of crevice outside, they could survive well protected.”

And having the snow with the extreme cold can help these predators.

“Snow actually acts as an insulator to help protect a lot of species. So those leaves on the ground and the snow on top of that helps a lot of animals to survive,” he said.

Spevak says to leave a place in your yard where you can let some leaves remain. This will allow for an area for spiders and predatory insects to be protected over the winter so they can protect us from any insect pests the next year.

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