Warm winter weather causing insects to come out earlier

Published: Mar. 5, 2020 at 5:14 PM EST
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Stink bugs, spiders, ticks. You normally won't see many of these bugs until spring or summer. But this year, the warm weather is changing that.

"Things will come out earlier than usual. You may have mosquitoes coming out earlier than you would expect them to, the stink bugs will come out earlier than you expect, and things like ticks," Michael Wise, Visiting Professor in Environmental Studies Department at Roanoke College, said.

He teaches courses on entomology--the study of insects. Wise says most insects have adapted to colder weather.

"As long as it remains freezing for the most of the winter, they are pretty much in suspended animation, and then when the spring comes, they can wake back up and resume what they need to do," he said.

So the warm weather isn't good for them.

"They may become active too soon and come out when the plants or whatever else they need aren't ready for them yet and they're more likely to run out of energy and starve before the spring comes," Wise added.

This can disrupt the food chain.

"Without insects we're going to have a lot fewer birds, fewer bats, and it will have ripple effects throughout the food chain," he said.

If mild winters continue, new bugs may eventually pop up in our region.

"If we have more and more warm winters, then the species that were adapted to more southern areas are going to gradually come further north, and we may see particular species in Virginia that we haven't seen much before," Wise said.

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