It’s easy to think that with the wildly cold weather we’ve seen in the last month, we would be seeing less pest activity as spring time starts to bloom. But is this actually true? With the harsh winter still upon us, is it safe to say that the cold will limit pesky pest activity or is it just a hurdle they’ll overcome? Here’s a few things you need to know about pests and how the cold can affect them.
Insects and critters have had thousands of years to perfect their winter survival game, but with the help of the polar vortex we’re experiencing some record breaking temperatures. So what does this mean for spring pests? Overwintering insects are pros at preparing themselves to hunker down and one method of survival is building up protein and carbohydrate molecules to protect themselves from deadly ice crystals. The swift formation of these ice crystals in the body can cause cells to explode and the resulting internal damage is the killer, so protecting against these is key. Some insects produce their own form of antifreeze to lower the point of freezing of bodily fluids, but this is only effective if the cooling temperatures are gradual. These survival tactics are efficient to a point. If prolonged exposure to severe cold is imminent, the risk of death from the cold is much higher and mass die off is a possibility.
The most common way for bugs and critters to stay safe against the cold is a method we’re all familiar with: hibernation. When creatures go into hibernation, their basic functions slow as they go into a dormant state to conserve energy. Mice and insects will find hibernation spaces under piles of wood, leaves and burrowing both underground and into tree bark. In insulated spaces, the temperature change is slowed and allows creatures a chance to adjust. The added insulation of snow is a bonus and helps them to stay much warmer. Hibernation isn’t always a solo affair either and some species will huddle together over winter.
In conclusion, the answer is rather mixed. Bugs and critters can withstand tough temperature changes, but this winter has proved to be quite harsh. Those that survive the winter will have their work cut out for them if the spring proves to be a mild one. There are many factors that come into play when it comes to pest survival and the last big indication of what our summer will look like depends on how mild or warm our spring turns out to be. If you were hoping for a big decrease in potential pest populations, keep your fingers crossed for a cool spring!