STATE – Pest control experts warn that bed bugs and other pests will survive the winter.
“If people are hoping that the bed bug infestation will be killed off by cold winter conditions, they are in for a bad surprise,” says Leonard Douglen, the executive director of the New Jersey Pest Management Association.
“Bed bugs live indoors with their human hosts,” says Douglen, “and the same warmth that keeps our homes and apartments comfortable in winter provides the same condition for them. Moreover, a bed bug, after taking a single blood meal, can live for up to a year without another one.”
“Termites, too,” says Douglen, “enjoy the same conditions when they set up a colony in a home or other structure. This explains why in the springtime they emerge in the thousands to fly off and create new colonies. Most homes in New Jersey have been hosts to termite colonies for three years or more before they discover an infestation.
Outdoor colonies simply head below the frost line where their large numbers and stored food keep them comfortable until spring arrives.”
Honey bees use the same strategy says Douglen. “They cluster together as the temperatures get colder and use their collective body heat to stay warm and protect their brood.”
“Ants also burrow deep below the frost line in the same way. If a home or other structure has a colony of Carpenter ants, the same conditions exist as for the termites and, of course, they have a constant source of food. Cockroaches, like ants, are provided with plenty of warmth and food by their human hosts.”
“Insects,” says Douglen, “have had millions of years to develop ways to over-winter. Some like the Monarch butterflies flies thousands of miles to Mexico to wait for warmer weather to arrive in the northern climes.”
Douglen explained that insects that are susceptible to freezing avoid it by generating their own antifreeze components. “The same ingredient in automobile antifreeze, ethylene glycol, is the most common chemical found in insects that use this mechanism to survive.”
“This survival mechanism is called diapause,” says Douglen. Since insects are essentially little bags of water; the smaller the amount of water they contain, the greater their ability to cool without freezing. Those that generate their own antifreeze will be around in the spring.”
The smaller the bug, like ants, insect eggs, or tiny spider mites, can survive easier than larger ones. Larger bugs like grasshoppers can fall victim to colder weather. Yellow jacket queens and other wasp species will over-winter in the eaves under roofs of homes so they can emerge in the spring to create an entire new colony.
“Different insect species have different survival strategies,” says Douglen. “The praying mantis survives as eggs while Wooley bear caterpillars will curl up in leaf litter for the winter. When spring arrives, the caterpillars spin their cocoons. Whether as eggs or via hibernation, insect species have been surviving harsh winter conditions for millions of years.”
Douglen recommends that homeowners in particular have regular inspections of their property to ensure “that the various areas in and around a home do not become places where a variety of insects, some of whom can inflict thousands of dollars of damage, can be identified and protected against infestations.” Homes, Douglen adds, are also invaded by rodent species such as mice who seek warm places to overwinter.
The New Jersey Pest Management Association was founded in 1941. Its members share duel membership with the National Pest Management Association. The Association maintains an Internet site at www.njpma.com.
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