Tim Reed, an extension entomologist with Auburn University, said many species affected by recent cold temperatures will start the year out with smaller populations, but they will likely build back up to levels comparable to last year.
It may be a big enough decrease for eastern Alabamians to notice, he said, but it will be a short reprieve.
“They’ll still need their Off,” he said, referring to the brand of bug repellent.
Reed said the cold can have a significant effect on insects if the temperature is low while the bugs pupate, or change from a larval stage to their adult structure.
He said this week’s freezing temperatures will likely mean fewer thrips, which are small, slender bugs that feed on plants such as roses and bite humans.
Reed said variables other than temperature can have larger effects on insect populations. Whether the area has a wet spring and summer will affect mosquitos much more than the recent, record-setting freeze, he said.
If this year’s cold winter is followed by a period of drought between April and May, he added, that could significantly decrease the population of stink bugs.
Reed said the recent cold weather would have had a large effect on boll weevils — an invasive bug that ravaged cotton crops in the South during much of the 20th century. However, federal eradication programs have done away with the beetle in most of the South.
But Reed said kudzu bugs, a new invasive species, pose a significant threat to soybean crops throughout the country. He said the insects have covered the country over the last few years, and he doesn’t know what effect the cold weather will have on them. He and other researchers will have a good idea in April, though.
Reed said the recent cold won’t harm pests such as roaches and termites because the insects largely remain inside homes.
And ants will be back in full force once warmer weather comes, he said, because they burrow into the ground where it’s warmer.
According to Jack Chapman of the Northeast Alabama Beekeepers Association, this week’s freezing temperatures made many beekeepers uneasy, but as long a colony is large enough and has enough food, he said, the bees will survive. Chapman said that in cold weather, bees ball together, flexing their muscles and flapping their wings to create heat. Chapman said this time of year, a colony can keep the temperature of a hive at about 60 degrees.
Assistant Metro Editor Daniel Gaddy: 256-235-3560. On Twitter @DGaddy_Star.