All this frozen ground covered in ice and snow should have an upside, right?
One would think it’d cut down on pesky flies and mosquitoes this summer.
Think again. And while you’re at it, make sure to stock up on DEET. The frigid weather will not save us from the torment of stings and bites come May, experts say.
“Yeah, it’s all pretty much the opposite from what people think it would be,” said Michael Bentley, the National Pest Management Association’s director of training and education. Bentley is based in Fairfax and is all too familiar with bug issues in the mid-Atlantic.
“Insects are actually better equipped to handle extreme cold than they are extreme heat,” he said.
Deborah Waller, an associate professor of biological sciences at Old Dominion University, explained that all those annoying critters are much more adept than humans when it comes to dealing with the cold.
“This time of year they are all in diapause,” Waller said of the period when bugs and insects go dormant. “They have a built-in way to protect themselves.”
Insects can go into diapause at any stage of their lifetime – embryonic, larval, pupal or adult. They know to enter the state when temperatures get consistently cooler and daylight decreases.
Ticks are a good example. They’ll dig deep under leafy areas on the ground to wait out the winter. And snow? Well, it actually serves as insulation from the cold air.
So this January freeze “won’t have much of an impact one way or the other,” Waller said.
Once spring begins, the bugs come out of hiding and start their journey through reproduction. Only then, when they’re out in the open, a deep freeze can kill a portion of the population.
“It does put serious stress on them, especially if it lasts a long time,” Bentley said. “And late freezes cut down on the number of days they have to reproduce. That’s the hope every year, that late winters and late freezes in spring deplete their window of opportunity.”
Aside from that, the message is, as it always is – wear long pants and shirts and use Environmental Protection Agency-approved repellents for protection. If the bugs are too bad, go inside.