Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Cold & Snow Impact on Pests

Hello fellow readers,

Mr. Wooly Bear Caterpillar sure predicted this winter spot-on!  Jane from Bangor asked if our single digits and snow cover will help reduce bugs.  Wouldn’t that be a well-deserved outcome after all of this brrrrr!   They say invasive insects may be more susceptible to death due to freezing depending on where they originated.  But native insects are resilient little buggers that have adapted amazing coping skills. Many are able to withstand temperatures well below zero!

Woolly Bear Caterpillar What does it mean when the brown section is on the end AND the middle? Hummmmm

Woolly Bear Caterpillar
What does it mean when the brown section
is on the end AND the middle?
BIG SNOW 2014 !

Some insects survive by migrating to warmer regions or by waiting out the winter using warming techniques combined with sheltering by entering houses, often hidden from view, and burrowing into the soil. Others tolerate freezing temperatures by producing an antifreeze-like substance to stop ice from forming in their cells and then enter into “diapause” – a type of hibernation.

What about the tick population asked Tom from Newton? Unfortunately snow cover helps insulate insects that live in the ground or under leaf litter; keeping temperatures stable and protecting them from predators.  It is winters with little snow and freezing and thawing temps that can impact insect population; causing soil to heave making for easy pickings by birds. Warmer variable winter temperatures can also awaken insects from diapause; triggering them to become active which uses up their fat reserves and may cause starvation.

The good news is steady cold winters are good for honey bees, our important pollinators, who survive by staying in the hive, eating stored honey and fanning their wings to stay warm. If the winter weather gets warm enough, they look for flowers wasting energy causing them to eat more. And if they deplete their winter supply, the colony will starve.

We long for an early spring. But in fact, when mild weather causes overwintering insects to emerge ahead of schedule, their numbers can increase quickly making them a detriment to tender young plants. Have patience, spring will come; hopefully with a few less invasive little buggers.

Garden dilemmas?


Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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