For some, the possibility of fewer insects would be an acceptable trade-off for having to endure the harsh winter weather. But does the cold really kill off the insect population? Will you see fewer stink bugs, box elder bugs, ants, and bees as a result of this year’s harsh temperatures?
The answer is yes…and no. While extreme cold temperatures over an extended period can have an impact on insect populations overall, it really depends on the insect and the circumstances.
Most insects rely on finding an insulated over-wintering harborage like leaf piles; loose tree bark and mulch to keep them warm enough through the winter. Accumulating snow offers an additional layer of insulation keeping them warm enough to survive the winter chill.
Some insects find even better accommodations, the warm walls of your house! Cluster flies, stink bugs, box elder bugs, lady bugs and other occasional invaders fall into this group. In late summer they work their way through small cracks in the siding, window joints, roof edges and dormers for a cozy winters nap. Having your home professionally treated in late summer will drastically reduce these fall invaders.
Some insects, like bed bugs, have developed the ability to create an antifreeze compound to slow their cells from freezing. Recently, a customer gave me a bag of collected bed bugs for identification. With nowhere to put them safely, I locked them in the metal tool box of my truck where temperatures dropped below zero. A few weeks later I brought the lifeless bugs, still in the baggie, inside to the warm office to show the other technicians. Within hours, the “dead” bed bugs were running around the baggie like it never happened!
So, while some take solace that the cold will kill off the bugs, in reality, nature finds a way. Of course some will succumb to the cold, but most will make it through just fine to be around to bug you come spring!