Apr. 10, 2012 While many enjoyed a mild winter and an early spring with record-breaking temperatures, the warm weather also prompted many bugs to show up earlier than usual. The question is, will bug populations be larger this summer?
"It depends," says Canisius College Biology Professor Katie Costanzo, PhD. Costanzo's research focuses on the evolutionary ecology of mosquitoes. "Some mosquitoes are dormant during the adult stage, while others are dormant during the egg stage," says Costanzo. "Our mild winter likely killed off less dormant adults and eggs, and the warm weather also facilitated an earlier end to the dormant stages. So, the warm weather caused the first batch of mosquito eggs to hatch early this year, and sped up development." Costanzo adds that in parts of the country where the warm weather continues, we can expect to see more generations of mosquitoes and possibly larger populations as the summer progresses. However, she says, there are other factors that affect the populations, as mosquitoes lay their eggs in or around standing water. "So, if we have a dryer than normal summer, they won't remain at a high level."
Flies are a different story. "Fly populations will depend upon the species," she says. "Some flies, like the house fly, don't have an aquatic stage and so they aren't dependent upon rainfall. The warm weather induced an earlier emergence and faster development, which may lead to a much higher population of house flies this summer."
Costanzo also notes that many other insects and arachnids came out much earlier than average years, including ants, termites, ticks, and wasps.
But, adds Costanzo, "the frost that followed warm temperatures in many parts of the country will slow down larval development that started, or even kill some larvae, depending on the level of freezing in the aquatic environments. The severity and length of these freezes will determine if the immature stages that may have emerged earlier than usual are impeded or terminated until warmer weather can sustain for longer periods throughout the area."
So, as far as predicting if we will have more bugs than usual this summer, it looks like we will just have to wait and see.
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