Why this winter could be bad for bugs - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Why this winter could be bad for bugs

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

It has been a winter of ups and downs, and that may be good thing if you don't like bugs.

"I'm cautiously optimistic that some of the insect pests may have died this winter because of the cold temperatures for an extended period of time," said Jon Turmel, an entomologist.

But freezing weather alone won't kill many pests, as they have adapted to survive.

"You can have really cold temperatures because a lot of the insects produce glycerol in their bodies. It's an antifreeze," Turmel said.

But if it warms up suddenly, that can be deadly.

"As the temperature goes up, so does theirs and they may start to lose some of that glycerol. And then a quick drop in temperature, then you get a lot of die-back," Turmel explained.

The patchy snow cover is frustrating for skiers, but it may be good news for gardeners. Turmel says temperature swings and little snow cover are more likely to kill insects. Insects like the green stink bug, which caused a headache for many farmers last summer, after a warmer winter that allowed more bugs to flourish. This year it's different and Turmel says it's possible the insects could take a hit.

"The snow cover came late and that has a lot to do with the overwintering potential of those insects," Turmel said.

Extreme temperature changes could also help kill mosquitoes, ticks and a pest that's creeping further into Southern Vermont-- the hemlock woolly adelgid.

"Hemlock woolly adelgid is exposed to all the elements, so I'm hoping that this winter serves as a natural control," Turmel said.

It's too early to tell, but gardeners should not expect a pest-free year. For many insects, the weather here won't affect them at all.

"Insects that can migrate do well and a lot of our insect pests that do a lot of crop damage are migrating," Turmel said.

Homeowners may be happy to hear, though, Turmel says they're hoping for fewer earwigs this year if the winter continues to be less mild.

Now there are some good bugs that entomologists are concerned about for this winter. Ladybugs don't protect themselves well in the cold and honeybees can starve if the temperatures drop too far. Also, lacewings-- a good predatory insect-- would die in weather that's too cold.

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