Most of the United States is experiencing record cold temperatures with this polar vortex. The end of January was down right glacial with temperatures plunging more than 20 degrees below normal. This record cold and snow is expected to last a couple more weeks.
This frigid weather has us pest management professionals wondering, just how much this severe cold is going to affect business this upcoming pest season. There’s no doubt that these cold temps will kill off some of the invasive pests we service, but to what extent?
As PCO’s, we all know that many of the pests we strive to manage can be extremely hardy and resilient. Years of evolution have programmed them to be so. They can go weeks without food, days without water, and months surviving among the elements.
However, insects being exothermic rely heavily on ambient temperature for warmth. The cold causes slower egg hatch and development, and prolonged, unprotected exposure will even kill insects. The longer the frigid weather lasts, the more insects are going to die off. It also means there will be fewer breeding cycles during the season, especially when the colder temperatures are prolonged.
As to how many insect pests will die off? Well, that’s the million dollar question. Yes, some insect pests will die because of this record cold, but the truth is it will probably have a minimal effect on most insects, especially our native species.
How Will Insects Survive This Record Cold?
Many of the common pests us PCO’s service have lived in the United States for millions of years or longer. They are well adapt at surviving all types of inclement weather; including a polar vortex. Like I said, they’ve had millions of years to get it right. Just how do they do it?
First off, insects go through a physiologically intense process of acclimatization in the fall. There are actually changes in their bodies. It’s the equivalent of having antifreeze. If these insects didn’t create this antifreeze, they would surely die; as their cells freeze and burst.
Second, when it begins to get chilly, insects will harbor or overwinter. Pests like ants and termites will bury themselves in the soil; underneath leaves and under other debris. These pests have a tendency to be less affected by the extreme cold.
Some kinds of pests will burrow behind tree bark. Others pests, like cockroaches for example, will enter our customer’s homes hoping to find warmth inside garages, walls or attics.
Will This Record Cold Affect The Pest Control Industry?
Given that temperatures across most of the United States have been some 20 degrees colder than average, and not for just one night but for an extended period, many of us pest management professionals are curious about insect mortality.
According to a recent study from the USDA Forest Service, this record cold is going to have some affect on the number of invasive insect pests this upcoming pest season. We will see a nominal drop in the amount of pests invading our customer’s homes. This drop will be minimal, and could’ve been a lot worse if the polar vortex occurred earlier in the winter; say November.
By mid January, when this polar vortex first hit, most insects have already acclimated themselves to the freezing elements. It would have hit in November, it would have certainly taken a much bigger toll on the bugs.
It is important to note, that if the cold stretches into the spring months, pest management professionals will see fewer bugs. The longer the winter, the fewer the insect breeding cycles… hence, fewer bugs.
As a pest professional with Bulwark Exterminating in Mesa, AZ; last year we experienced some record cold. The cold even did some major damage to our beloved citrus trees. While the freezing cold did a number on our pipes, it really had little effect on our pests. We saw the same amount of bug and scorpion activity, as in previous years.
I’m expecting more of the same this year, but it may differ as to the part of the country in which you live. We’ll just have to wait and see… But hopefully not too long. It’s cold out there. Brrrrr!