When do bugs bounce back from winter?

Updated: Mar. 12, 2018 at 7:20 PM CDT
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CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - While the winter season seems to be dragging on, it also means a longer break from having to deal with pest insects when we're outside, but when will bugs be making their comeback?

Paul Schnare, the owner Sunny Hill Gardens says he hasn't seen many insects yet in 2018.

"It's cold, I'm not surprised," he said. "Because of that a lot of plants aren't growing, a lot of insects aren't being too active simply because of the temperatures."

Bruce Henry, a natural history biologist for the Department of Conservation, focuses his efforts on improving and conserving populations of all non-game wildlife including insects.

"We have tens of thousands of insect species," Henry said. "In the springtime, as our migratory birds are coming back into southeast Missouri and our snakes and frogs are emerging, the presence of those insects are key to their survival."

Compared to last year's mild winter when he started seeing insects in February, Henry said this year's cold season has been 'average' and nighttime temperatures will have to stay above 50-degrees before bugs are commonly seen again.

"The weather we are having now is going to result in insects being common in early April," Henry said. "I think even if it warms up toward the end of this month that insects will be out and about like those stink bugs and ticks on a warm day, so this is the time of year we want to start looking for those."

Henry said the most hazardous winter weather combination for adult bugs and larva are low temperatures coupled with wet conditions which can cause them to freeze. But the biologist added that native species have evolved to survive so it doesn't have a substantial effect on the number of bugs.

"So an exceptionally cold winter we might lose a larger percentage of certain insect population, but many will survive because they're adapted to that cold," Henry said. "The insects that are likely to be more impacted are the exotic ones that are moving northward from the south."

If you're planning to go on a hike or work in your garden, Henry suggests wearing pants and long sleeves and using insect repellent with DEET to prevent bug bites.

"Some of those other botanical insect repellents do work they're just a little bit less successful than DEET," Henry said. "We know what tick-borne and mosquito-borne illnesses can do to our kids, they can kill them and put them in a hospital, but DEET has never shown to do that."

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