Colder weather puts chill on spring pest populations

Published 9:35 pm Friday, January 29, 2010

The snaps of freezing weather and snow thathave peeked through an otherwise normal winter may have made thespring a little more pleasant – and not just by temperaturecomparison.

            Lincoln County ExtensionDirector Rebecca Bates said the cold snaps could also help with thebug population once the warmer months hit.

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            “It depends on the species,some are more susceptible to the cold than others,” she said. “Italso can have to do with where the eggs are laid, and where theimmatures are wintering.”

            Outdoors enthusiasts shouldbe glad to know that one of the main bugs that could see apopulation hit are the ones like mosquitoes and beetles, Batessaid. Unfortunately common household pests are not affected by thewintry weather.

            “Mostly roaches harborthemselves indoors,” she said. “Unfortunately they’re not reallyaffected by the weather.”

            But it could definitely be abetter year in the garden, Bates said. Some of the garden varietybeetle populations have more than likely been thinned, meaningthere will be fewer to chew on homegrown fruits, vegetables andherbs.

            “That doesn’t mean you won’tneed pest control in your garden,” she said. “But it could meanthere will be a lower population. It probably means you’ll justneed to use less pesticide.”

            Bates said the real testwill come in late spring or early summer when the bug communitiesbegin to really come to life.

            “They start to move whensoil temperatures get to 70 degrees, so in June is when thepopulation starts to build,” she said.

            And the plants themselvesalso bear watching after the cold snaps. Bates said many plantslocally are not familiar with extended stretches of freezingtemperatures.

            “We have some damagedplants, and you can expect that,” she said, adding that somespecies of palms that are used to warmer climates are seriouslyinjured.

            “And some shrubs we considerhardy could have damage, like azaleas,” she said.

            Some plants that don’t seemto be affected could also be simply dormant and waiting to manifesttheir damage later in the year, Bates said.

            “Some common shrubs, thebark actually bursts, but the plant stays green,” she said. “Whenit comes out of dormancy, you start to see dead limbs, and you canfollow them to the split in the bark.”

            Bates said in that case, thebest plan is to wait until the spring to prune the plant unlessthere are obviously dead limbs.

            And there could still behope for some plants that look like they’re finished.

            “I lost a bottle brush tree,it’s probably dead down to the soil,” she said. “I’m going to pruneit to the ground and hope it flushes out.”

            Bates said the bestprotection is to make sure plants are mulched and watered well nowto protect from further cold weather damage. Another thing to keepin mind, she said, is that only warm temperatures will turn plantsgreen. Now is not the time to be fertilizing.

            “Lawns are totally dormantnow,” she said. “Usually at this time your lawn is semi-dormant.But it’s important that you don’t push your lawn, because there’snothing green right now but weeds, and that’s what you’ll befertilizing.”