Experts: Cold winter won't kill insect population - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Experts: Cold winter won't kill insect population

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Despite the assumption that a frigid winter makes for a bug-free summer, experts say ticks and mosquitoes can survive the deepest of freezes.

"Well I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there will still be bugs in the spring and summer," entomologist Blair Leano-Helvey told WDRB.

Leano-Helvey says it doesn't matter how mild or harsh Louisville's winter is, bugs will still make an appearance come spring.

"Insects are the most diverse organisms on the face of the planet, so they're very good at surviving," she said.

Steve Yanoviak agrees. He's an assistant professor in the biology department at U of L.

"Five days of really hard temperatures is not going to drive anything extinct around here," said Yanoviak.

He says insects that are native to Kentucky adapt to all four seasons, so they can live through the hottest and the coldest temperatures.

"They have a couple mechanisms in particular, one is a natural antifreeze in their blood, so to speak, in their body fluids that enable them to withstand subfreezing temperatures with no problem," he added.

Even the bugs we consider the most annoying -- like ticks, mosquitoes and fleas -- will survive.

Experts say right now, most of them are hiding somewhere out of the elements like inside trees or under your house.

"Insects use behavioral strategies to protect themselves," Yanoviak told WDRB.

He says a few hard freezes will likely kill some bugs, but not enough for us to notice a difference.

"No matter how cold it gets, they're not going to go extinct. There's always going to be a few that survive," he said.

And those few will multiply.

"Things tend to get really bad before they get better," added Leano-Helvey.

Then there are the insects that aren't native to our region like the pesky stink bug and the invasive emerald ash borer.

Even though they might not be used to Kentucky's climate pattern, they aren't dying either.

"The emerald ash borer tolerates temperatures down to about -30 degree Fahrenheit," said Yanoviak.

But Yanoviak says we shouldn't be wishing death upon the insect population anyway.

"There are a lot of insects out there that are beneficial to humans," he said.

Both experts told WDRB it's too soon to tell just how dense the insect population will be come spring. They say that depends on the amount of spring rain.

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