How will cold affect insect pests, weeds?

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How will cold affect insect pests, weeds?

By Dr. William Johnson

Published January 20, 2010

Q: Will the recent cold temperatures down into the low 20s and upper teens reduce the number of insect pests in the following summer?

A: I get several inquires from homeowners and gardeners this time of year about whether the cold spells during the winter season will reduce the number of insect pests in the landscape or home.

However, such hope generally is unwarranted as insects are a very resilient form of animal life and are well-adapted to deal with weather-related challenges. They have developed survival strategies that usually guarantee their return each spring.

Some insects go through the winter season as adults, such as leaf-footed bugs, a most dreaded insect pest on tomatoes, citrus and pecans.

Leaf-footed bugs overwinter as adults in aggregations that can be found in trees like palms, citrus, or junipers, or can be found in places like brush piles. They do not feed during the winter, and hunker down together in groups to wait for spring.

Many insects will spend winter in other stages of life (such as eggs, larva, or pupa) which can be even more tolerant of cold temperatures.

Some insects, such as mosquitoes, reproduce so rapidly it would be difficult to tell if a cold winter had any effect on them at all. It goes without saying that Alaska and mosquitoes go hand-in-hand.

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