Thursday, February 13, 2014

What do cold weather and snow do to hibernating insects?

The winter of 2014 has had much of the country surrounded by snow and crushed by cold. Many are hoping this weather will bury the bugs… but will it?

The answer is not necessarily. Insects are quite adaptable to cold, and can be surprisingly hardy. Thanks to their biology and their behavior, many insects have no problem surviving winter’s frigid temperatures.

Biology: Stink bugs and other insects have the ability to super-cool themselves when they hibernate. Dr. Qing-He Zhang, Director of Research and Development at RESCUE!®, compares this super-cooling ability to “antifreeze” inside the insect bodies that allows them to tolerate sub-zero temperatures.

Behavior: Insects such as stink bugs, yellowjackets and Japanese beetles also have behavioral means of surviving the winter. Of course, we know that huge numbers of stink bugs go indoors and hibernate in houses, which protects them (while causing plenty of irritation to the homeowners!). Many insects may hide under soil or in a hollow tree stump. Japanese beetles can burrow into the soil several feet down so they’re protected. For any insects overwintering outdoors, a heavy snow cover actually helps to provide a nice shelter.

“Ironically, a mild winter and early spring can be more deadly to insects than a long, cold winter,” says Dr. Zhang.

Why? “Because an early thaw can cause the bugs to emerge from hibernation earlier than normal… and before there are ample food sources available to survive,” he explains.

The bottom line: Don’t let winter lull you into a false sense of security concerning insects. Make sure you are prepared with our traps to catch these stink bugs, wasps, hornets, yellowjackets and Japanese beetles when they wake up in spring!