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Stutzke’s Stats: No the majority of stink bugs were not killed by this year’s polar vortex

A viral article from 2014 is making the rounds on social media this week claiming that our recent spell of record-breaking cold weather has killed off nearly 95% of the stink bug population. While it would certainly be welcome news for many of us, the fact is the article is quite misleading and isn’t based on any scientific “research”.

The article first surfaced this February and referenced a study that was conducted in 2014 after the Polar Vortex that winter. The study being referenced was performed by researchers at Virginia Tech who observed quite a drop in stink bug population numbers after being exposed to extremely cold conditions. The claim of a 95% eradication rate is erroneously high as the actual rate in the observation was closer to 50%. So, the cold does have an impact on the population itself, but the majority of these insects are tucked away for the winter staying warm and avoiding the frigidly cold temperatures.

According to entomologists, the life cycle of many insects in our region typically follows the one that you see above. With stink bugs, they spend their winters in hibernation by slowing down their metabolism and relying on energy reserves for nutrients. As temperatures warm during the spring, they come out of their winter shelters and begin seeking mates before laying eggs. These eggs will hatch during the summer months and quickly after that the insects will head for fields and other vegetation to begin gorging themselves before seeking shelter in the fall.

You may not realize it, but we actually help keep these pests alive during the harsh winter months. The trees in our yards provide adequate shelter, especially underneath the bark. Our very own homes also offer numerous points of protection, including cracks in siding, windows, and doorframes. Ever notice how these bugs hang out on your window screens and sides of your house on a warm day? There’s a reason! They are actively seeking locations in those specific areas of your home to hibernate for the winter.

The same behavior can be said for many of our other insects, too, including mosquitos. In short, don’t expect the bug issues to disappear this summer. Studies have shown that even these little critters are evolving in many different ways to battle the extreme cold.

What can you do? While there are some insecticides that will temporarily decrease the activity of these pests, the best thing you can do is make sure the outside of your home has a firm barrier. You want to look for cracks, areas that are separated from walls like windows and door frames. Essentially any location where a small insect can get into your home will be vulnerable. You’ll want to seal these locations up as quickly as possible before next fall.

Meteorologist Andrew Stutzke

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