Potentially Early Start to Insect Season

As temperatures rise, the insect population is springing into action signaling a potentially early start to bug season. PJ Liesch, director of the University of Wisconsin Madison Insect Diagnostic Lab, tells SFN the false spring weather can prompt insect activity sooner than expected.

“If we end up having a really warm and early spring. And if we also have an extended and late fall, that is going to stretch out the warmer period of the year that could allow certain insects to perhaps squeeze in additional generations of insects. There are some insects that kind of continually reproduce like aphids will go through generation after generation. But some other insects are a little bit more set in their ways. And they might only normally go through a single generation per year. Unless they have an extended warm season then they might try to squeeze in a second generation.”

Warm temperatures have also led to early activity among ticks.

“To be honest with some of the warm temperatures we’ve had in the last couple of weeks. Ticks have become active. folks aren’t thinking of ticks necessarily. We tend to think of ticks during the string spring months like April and May when we’re getting out and doing hiking or looking for Morales or getting out in the fields and things like that. But the ticks that we have around here that we commonly think of like deer ticks and American Dog ticks, they can overwinter and they typically go down amongst leaf litter on the ground which insulates them to a certain extent. And then if there’s snow on top of that, it insulates them further. And so once the temperatures warm up just enough consistently above freezing, you can in theory have ticks becoming active any time of the year.”

He says the mild weather allows crop pests to pop out earlier than usual.

“If we have an extended growing season in early spring and late fall, that may allow some insect pests that don’t overwinter here to get up to our area a little bit earlier in the year and we have a lot of important crop pests that fall into that category of migratory pests. So things like true armyworms, black cutworms, potato leaf hoppers, these are insects that for the most part overwinter in some of the southern states, like the Gulf Coast area, and spring weather systems, basically force them and throw them up into the upper Midwest and the Jetstream can carry them up here and things like that. So if we have an early start to the year and those pests arrive earlier rather than later, that could mean that we have more pest pressure from those particular insects this year.”

Liesch adds it’s still a bit too early to predict the full impact that these weather patterns will have on insects, and every year is different when it comes to insects.

“And so it’s like that Forrest Gump box of chocolates, you never quite know what you’re gonna get. We know we have had some trending insects in the state but there’s always some surprises too. So I think we really have to stay tuned. Watch Mother Nature because the weather is going to have a big impact on insects like it always does. But in terms of what is gonna look like this season, there’s a little bit of unknown at this point and we won’t know until the year is done.”