Editors Blog

Will Winter Weather Kill Off Deer Ticks?

We are all grasping for any positive spin we can put on this brutal winter. One that I’ve heard repeated over the past few weeks is, “well, at least we won’t have to worry about bugs this summer.” The thinking is that this deep freeze — with frost depths lower than we’ve seen in decades — will kill off all of the hibernating bugs, including deer ticks.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s not rooted in reality.

According to my friends at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, this brutal winter might kill off a few creepy crawlers, but not enough to make any real impact.

“Cold weather and insect survival – if you’re hoping that this winter will “kill off all the insects”, don’t hold your breath,” the DNR states in a press release. “Although the bitterly cold temperatures will impact some insect populations, the reality is that most of our insects do ok during the winter. This is especially true of winters (like this one) where the winter came on slowly and steadily, and has stayed cold, allowing the insects to acclimate to the cold and remain acclimated.”

So how do insects survive winters? Below are just a few of the ways:

•Life stage – Some insects overwinter as adults, some as larvae or nymphs, and other insects trust that their eggs will be able to survive the cold temperatures and desiccation of winter weather.

•Location – some insects have added protection by living under bark, overwintering at the base of trees, under leaves, or just under the soil.

•Protected by snow – Spending the winter in areas where snow will provide insulation from extreme temps is also a good choice.

• Chemical changes – Super-cooling is another adaptive strategy that insects utilize, in which they reduce the water in their cells, and replace it with compounds that work like antifreeze.
But don’t despair … there will definitely be some winter mortality of some of our insect populations, just not the wholesale destruction that some are hoping for.