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Extreme Cold Could Reduce Invasive Insects

AP/Vermont Dept. of Forests, Parks and Recreation, Ron Kelley
Temperatures in the minus 4 or 5 degrees Fahrenheit range can kill invasive species such as the hemlock woolly adelgid, seen here in Rockingham, in this file photo from 2007

File this under the heading “silver linings”: the extreme cold that our region experienced over New Year’s could slow the expansion of invasive insects here.

For several days in late December and early January, temperatures stayed well below zero. State entomologist Alan Graham says that can affect insects that over-winter in Vermont. He says the populations of pests like the wooly adelgid could be slightly reduced by the extreme cold.  The Hemlock wooly adelgid can’t stand really cold temperatures," says Graham. "We may get a setback in Hemlock wooly adelgid population in southern Vermont.”

Another destructive invasive insect that Vermonters haven’t found here yet is the emerald ash borer. That insect has been spreading north, but the cold might mitigate its population as well. "It depends on how many days at sub-zero temperatures the climate remains," says Graham, "so that the cold temperature can reach into the core of the tree.”

Unfortunately, Graham says that ticks are able to survive cold just fine under the snow cover or on host mammals like small rodents. He cautions that the overall effects of this year’s cold on insects will not be known till summer when the insect populations can be accurately measured.

Ric was a producer for Vermont Edition and host of the VPR Cafe.
A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
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