Summer bugs are always a bother, and the common thinking is that if there is a severe winter that the cold weather should wipe out a large number of pesky insects in time for summer.
During a particularly buggy summer, do you ever find yourself thinking “There are more bugs this year than I can remember!”? As you and your friends and neighbors are frantically searching “How to keep bugs out of the house in the summer,” keep in mind that there is an easy explanation for spikes in pest populations, so you can know what to watch for and be better prepared.
It’s true that extended periods (at least a couple of weeks at a time) of sub-zero temps can thoroughly breach, get to, and kill even the most well-protected insects and eggs during the winter months. Remember that just because it’s extremely cold where you might live, doesn’t mean that conditions in other parts of the country won’t affect your state.
Winter 2018 – 2019
Take winter 2018-19, for example. Even though many areas of the United States went through what seemed like extended periods of brutal winter temperatures, a large portion of the United States stayed mild and excessively moist, two major factors in heightened insect populations.
The National Pest Management Association’s (NPMA) Bug Barometer forecasted a spike in pest populations for spring of 2019. For example, A long stretch of rain (3 to 12 inches over two weeks) in Michigan late in 2018 made conditions ideal for mosquito populations to multiply by three or four times.
Major events from the 2018-2019 winter included several major snow/ice storms (including an unexpected blizzard in April) in the Midwest, Northeast, and much of Canada in late January and early February. We also saw record snow in the Southwest in later February, unusual snow in the Southeast and the excessive rainfall in Michigan in December, and two “nor’easter” storms on the east coast in early March. Then there was severe tornado activity in the Southeast.
Most notably, an unexpected “bomb cyclone” affected much of North America in mid-March, resulting in a $4 billion rampant flooding nightmare throughout much of the Midwest. May 2018 to April 2019 were the wettest 12 months ever. And not just rain. The flooding continued, too.
In other words, lots of moisture. Excessive moisture means the “perfect” climate storm arriving in the form of an early spike in bug populations, as it did for the 2109 spring and summer months in the continental U.S.
How Moisture Affects Insect Populations
Different types of weather have their own effect on insect survival and breeding. The easy formula for spikes in bug breeding is: residual winter moisture + plenty of moisture during the spring + a hot summer = very bug-filled hot months.
Wet, mild-to-cool temperatures also encourage lush vegetation growth, creating more breeding areas for insects, and leading to rapid growth of many pest populations, which can end up migrating to other parts of the country.
How Mild Winters Affect Insect Populations
Are you having problems with fleas and ticks this year, maybe for the first time ever? Could have to do with the mild winter that a lot of the U.S. experienced this past winter.
Bugs and their eggs usually spend the winter above the ground (e.g. certain beetles) or below (e.g., ants). Some hibernate (e.g., yellowjackets), some migrate elsewhere (e.g., Monarch butterflies), and some head indoors (e.g., cockroaches).
Bugs below the ground (e.g., ants) aren’t typically affected by the cold, but many of those above ground that stay outdoors don't weather the cold well. As temperatures drop, and especially as they drop below freezing, most of these insects above ground will die.
Increased bug populations are never a question of whether bugs survive the cold winter, but rather how many of the eggs laid end up surviving. Mild winters mean more bugs above the ground will survive, meaning fewer eggs were killed off, resulting in more eggs to hatch when it warms up, and then more bugs during the spring and summer.
You might also enjoy reading How to Get Rid of Ants Naturally
Earlier Breeding for Mosquitoes and other Water Bugs
Mosquitoes need still water to lay eggs. Their eggs usually last through the winter unless temperatures drastically drop, but mosquito activity really starts to hop after the eggs hatch in spring.
Wet spring weather means more moisture sources, allowing mosquitoes to hatch earlier, and which then allows them to life-cycle through more generations (egg – larva – pupa – adult, all in approximately 8-10 days) starting in the spring and on through the summer and fall. Then, their early life-cycling is connected to how much precipitation we receive in the spring.
Generally speaking, with mild winters and plenty of spring rain (like we had in spring 2019), expect mosquitoes earlier and in greater numbers throughout the months of hot weather.
More Bug Food
Mild winters usually mean plenty of moisture and early growth of the lush vegetation previously mentioned. This encourages several species to infest and damage wood, trees, plants, and soil, meaning early access to plenty of food, making it easier for them to survive and build new colonies.
Keep Your Home Bug Free!
So now that you know to expect more bugs after a mild winter, wet spring, and hot summer, how do you manage the problem?
Before going for a quick fix solution by reaching for the pest control products, try putting some mechanical/physical preventive measures in place.
When conditions are right for heavy pest activity, focus on controlling pests around your home’s foundation and in your yard. By doing this, you reduce the likelihood of a pest infestation problem inside your home.
How do you keep your home bug-free? We’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below!
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