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Winter Cold Helps Reduce Summer Bugs

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By Jay Michaels

Twin Falls, Idaho ( KMVT-TV / KTWT-TV ) If you thought you were chilly during our recent cold snap, you're not alone. But if it's cold for long enough, you could see considerably fewer bugs this summer.

Many insects lay their eggs on the outside of plants, while beetles burrow deeper inside them. But plants don't die completely during the winter unless temperatures are very cold, or they stay down for an extended period of time. When that happens, the growth of plants slows down considerably and sometimes stops.

Dave Kiesig, Horticulture Instructor at the College of Southern Idaho, says, “That tissue starts to really slow down, it stops feeding, it stops insulating those insects, they freeze, they die.”

Insects who lay their eggs on the outside of plants can be killed with dormant oil treatments in both fall and spring. But if winter temperatures don't get cold enough, that could result in much larger insect populations after warm weather hits.

Kiesig says, “The real downside of this is a lot of our insect species multiply several times during a season. And so if we start out with a full hatch, then we end up in trouble later on.”

That's because several full hatches will allow insect numbers to grow exponentially. Winter cold slows down what little growth is happening in plants, which results in the insect eggs or pupae dying as a result of the winter cold.

Kiesig says, “The reason that we don't want too many insects is because of the damage they do. So this is Nature's way to help manage populations.”

Kiesig says the plants quit releasing energy from their cells and the bitterly cold temperatures break through to where the insects are.

Feb. 25, 2013.


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