Winter and Bugs
Does a cold winter mean fewer bugs come spring? Does a warmer winter bring bugs by the billion? We will address these questions and more in this article. So grab your coffee and a warm blanket, and let’s discover some amazing bug facts together.
Georgians tend to think we have more than our fair share of bugs, but even the northern parts of our country struggle when it comes to pests. Black fly and mosquito populations surge in northern areas despite the extreme cold. I have personally seen Alaska in the summer months and can attest to the tremendous size of these pesky natives.
The truth is that bugs are adaptive creatures. So they instinctively know when cold weather is coming and have many methods to prepare for the incoming temperature drops. So to answer the question: no, a cold winter will not mean fewer bugs next spring and summer, and a warm winter will not mean we will be overrun by massive roaches and armies of ants. Sorry to disappoint you and happy to set your mind at ease. Whatever comes…the bugs are ready. More than winter cold, the moisture availability in the spring season has a larger impact on the bug world in our area.
Insects that are native to a particular geographical area are biologically geared for the environment. Plus, when winter weather comes at predictable times, they are especially ready and waiting for the normal pattern of seasonal changes. Obviously, invading insects may adapt to the necessary changes or they may not be able to do so and their populations die out or are reduced in an area. It is also true that early cold snaps may influence a vulnerable species, but it is not likely to be of great consequence.
But you may be wondering just how insects can manage the impressive art of survival during the cold of winter. Unlike the migrating Monarch butterfly, Georgia insects employ other methods to ensure a healthy spring population.
Overwintering is a common practice of finding a protective area to spend the coldest parts of the winter season. For instance, the Southern house mosquito finds a storm drain to be a cozy winter hideaway, while the termite enjoys a good snuggle in a pile of firewood or yard debris pile. Beetles can be found in cracks and crevices, and spiders like tree bark. Many wasps look for eaves and even attic spaces to call home. Of course, all of these insects would be happy to move in if you’re looking for creepy-crawly housemates.
Insects can also manipulate their life cycles to help them survive winter’s chill. The tiger mosquito overwinters in the egg stage of life and hatches when spring’s warmth returns. The wooly bear caterpillar spends the winter underneath leaf piles as an immature larva. Other insect larvae and pupae are warm and insulated in the soil. Few fit into the next category, but the praying mantids are able to lay eggs that survive the cold season.
Another amazing survival skill of insects is the ability to actually create physiological changes within their bodies. As temperatures change and the days shorten, insects instinctively know winter is on the way. Insects that implement physiological changes first know to reduce eating in order to keep foods out of their stomachs and digestive system. The reason is that ice crystals can form inside their bodies and require a nucleus, food, to form. Without excessive food, the insect is also not in need of as much water. In the most extreme temperatures, insects in these environments are able to change sugars, or glycogen, to a substance called glycerol. Glycerol is a sugar alcohol that acts as a type of antifreeze! The insect can lower its freezing point and live for extended periods of time in this supercooled state. Our Georgia insects aren’t typically in need of such extreme skills, but the Russian wheat aphid most certainly is. These “cool”, (see what I did there?) bugs can supercool to the point that unless temps are colder than 13 below zero, they are able to survive. That’s extreme!
In summary, there will be some insects that will not survive the winter, but the majority will make the predictable spring comeback. And, yes, you get a bit of a bug break in the winter; however, there are insects that still cause problems for the wintertime Georgia homeowner. Preparation and vigilance are best if you prefer to maintain a bug-free home.
Give us a call today at 770-479-1598 if we can help you live bug-free!
Canton Termite and Pest Control