Does Frigid Weather Kill Insect Pests? NO! Fridged weather Does Not Reduce Pest Population Some Insect Species hibernate. Others Thrive Indoors with Us. The bone-chilling weather around the northeast and much of the nation does not mean that insect pests will not return just as soon as spring returns. They have learned how to survive.
“Entomologists and those in the business of controlling… and eliminating insects know that they are superbly adapted to survive.” says Leonard Douglen, Executive Director of the New Jersey Pest Management Association, Insects were among the earliest life forms on Earth and have survived several ice ages including the most recent that ended approximately 11,500 years ago. “There’s a wingless, mosquito-sized insect, the Antarctic midge, that can live more than 300 days encased in ice,” said Douglen. Studies are underway to determine how it withstands such conditions. “In general, insects though cold-blooded have learned how to survive winter conditions.” “Those that cannot avoid cold weather,” said Douglen, “have a survival mechanism called diapause. They literally stop moving when they are cold and, as long as they do not freeze solid, their bodies can withstand cold weather until temperatures begin to warm again.” Some can generate their own antifreeze.
Another way insects avoid extreme cold is to hibernate deeper in the ground where the cold does not penetrate. The smaller the bug, like ants, insect eggs, or tiny spider mites, can survive easier than larger ones. Larger bugs like grasshoppers can fall victim to colder weather. Yellow jacket queens and other wasp species will over-winter in the eaves under roofs of homes so they can emerge in the spring to create an entire new colony. “This is good news for the many species of insect that utilize this mechanism, but bad news for humans who will encounter them when the weather turns warmer,” said Douglen. A good example of survival are termites. “For homeowners, the first warm days of spring can include the discovery that they have been playing host to a termite colony when termites emerge from their hibernation. Swarms of elates or winged termites emerge from an existing colony to create new ones. These swarms mean that a colony is located somewhere inside the structure and have been there anywhere from three to five years unnoticed.” Homes and other structures offer insects the same degree of warmth that they do for human inhabitants. “In addition to termites, colonies of Carpenter ants, either inside the home or entering in the thousands from hibernation outside, require intensive inspections to determine their sources and extensive efforts to eliminate them from doing further damage.” This is particularly true of bed bugs. “Bed bugs will keep pest control professionals busy throughout the winter because they and others who take up residence with us will require elimination.” Douglen noted that a single blood meal is sufficient to last a year for a single bed bug. They are then free to lay more eggs and produce more bed bugs.
Stinging insects such as Yellow Jackets and other wasp species also hibernate during the winter and emerge to create new colonies. Ants that have remained underground also respond to warming weather. David Denlinger, a professor of entomology at Ohio State University, has been studying the impact of weather on insects and says that, “Insects produce specific proteins in order to survive severe stress. These proteins seem to help an insect endure times of extreme heat and cold, and also dehydration and even desiccation.”