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By March 29, 2019 Read More →

Polar Vortex – Friend or just a Cold Shoulder

Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program, CC BY-NC 2.0

The Polar Vortex hit the Finger Lakes region in late January 2019 with sub-zero temperatures and widespread disruptions to human life. But maybe there was some gain to go along with the pain.

“While most insects will be equipped to survive a short period of very cold weather, like the recent polar vortex, it’s likely some will die from this extreme weather event,” said, Brittany Campbell, PhD, Entomologist with the National Pest Management Association (NPMA).

According to Dr. Campbell, while cold winters typically produce lower insect numbers in the spring than mild winters, in places accustomed to cold weather, however, there is less of a chance of a significant impact on pest populations. Despite their ability to survive short periods of cold weather, sustained frigid temperatures, like those brought about from the most recent polar vortex, could be effective at killing off even some well-prepared pests. In addition to the effect of extremely cold weather on pests themselves, damage to plants and other animals can also disrupt food supplies for insects in the spring and summer, driving them indoors.

Emerald ash borer and southern pine beetle are two species of interest that may have been impacted because they are less well adapted to the cold.

According to University of Wisconsin–Madison bug guy, PJ Liesch, “The cold weather will undoubtedly have some impacts, although it’s difficult to predict at this point. Insects like the emerald ash borer will likely be impacted by the cold, but their reproductive capacity should allow them to ‘catch up’ in the long-run,” Liesch explains.

So the Polar Vortex may bring us some small reprieve in the spring, but probably not in the long run.


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