We’re ok. There’s nothing to see here. How’s everyone doing? pic.twitter.com/g0VuDIiU6q
— UW–Madison Science (@UWMadScience) January 30, 2019
Surely that means some of the peskiest insects we know don’t stand a chance in the polar vortex, right?
Well, not so fast, says 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,” Liesch says. “The snow we’ve received over the last few weeks has created an excellent insulating layer that will protect many overwintering insects from the full force of the cold.”
“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.
What about ticks, those creepy arachnids infamous for carrying diseases like Lyme, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and even red meat allergies? (Why, yes, you can find Lone Star ticks in Wisconsin and they’re really disgusting.*)
Liesch delivers some more bad news: “Ticks overwinter down amongst leaf litter, meaning that they should be well insulated at this point.”
Well, surely those smelly, annoying stink bugs will perish in the arctic blast … right?
Turns out, they’re just more likely to cozy up next to us as we huddle for survival in our heated homes.
“The invasive brown marmorated stink bug, which has been a nuisance to many Wisconsinites, likes to invade homes and other structures which would provide sufficient warmth during this cold spell,” Liesch says.
She can’t yet say for sure, but probably not, says UW–Madison Entomology Professor, Susan Paskewitz, co-director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Disease: “We have a good snow cover and usually that should give some insulation down where the eggs are overwintering.”
While there is some potentially good news — “I’d expect that insects overwintering in more exposed locations (such as exposed egg masses) or recent invaders from more southern areas would be impacted the most,” Liesch says — it sounds like we’re just going to have to find ways to make do with these cold conditions and remember that summer, and its bugs, will be here before we know it.
*No really, read this: –Nymphs and larvae of the lone star tick will often feed on humans, and can sometimes be present in large numbers. These are sometimes called “seed ticks” in the southern USA. It is not uncommon for a person to pick up 20 to several hundred seed ticks at a time.
For more info about insects and insect-borne diseases and invasions:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Midwest Center of Excellence for Vector Borne Disease: http://mcevbd.wisc.edu/
University of Wisconsin–Madison Insect Diagnostic Lab: http://labs.russell.wisc.edu/insectlab/
United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/resources/pests-diseases/hungry-pests/the-threat/emerald-ash-borer/emerald-ash-borer-beetle