Gardeners, farmers, and lawn enthusiasts have long wondered just what happens to the pests that damage the lawn and plantings all growing season long. Do they just die or hide out until the weather improves? Let’s take a closer look at this question as we try to decipher the impact of the cold New England winters on lawn and garden pests.
Does the Cold Winter Kill Lawn Pests?
A quick Google search about the winter’s impact on pests shows that this is a common question that has stymied researchers for decades. In short, the answer is… it depends. The answer may change depending upon: the type of insect and the range of temperature.
According to the Mother Nature Network online, “Insects survive the winter as eggs, pupae, larvae or, in some cases, as adults in tiny micro-habits in leaf litter, the ground, bark on trees, or even in your house,” he explained. “When the temperature is at 40 degrees [Fahrenheit] or lower, they can’t move. At 45 degrees, they begin moving, but only slowly. If the temperature gets to 70 degrees in mid-March or early April, insects get a fast start and quickly produce multiple generations that can quickly soar to hundreds of thousands. If, however, cold temperatures extend into April or even May, insects will miss one or more of their population cycles.”
The Farmers’ Almanac states that “All insects have some ability to withstand cold weather. One of the most common strategies is to bury themselves underground, beneath leaf litter, or to burrow under tree bark for protection and hibernate for the season. These protective maneuvers work pretty well most winters, allowing insect populations to remain relatively stable.”
Recent warmer-than-normal winters have caused an explosion of some pests such as ticks and mosquitoes. When winter temperatures never reach a truly deep freeze, bugs make it through to spring unscathed and ready to multiply. If you have a specific pest that you are curious about, we have included two resources below that will help you determine how strongly the pests in your area will make a return once spring emerges.
Farmers’ Almanac – Do Winters Kill Insects?
Mother Nature Network – Does a cold winter decrease bugs?