We’ve had quite a rough stretch of winter weather here in eastern North Carolina. Sometimes years go by when we don’t see temperatures in the teens let alone the single digits. Combined with severe winds this has caused problems for many. This whole week has been miserable, but this morning it was approaching zero, a record low temperature. This was coupled with 10-15 mph winds.
One thing we must keep in mind is that it’s far from confined to our neck of the woods. Northern tier states, particularly the New England ones have been slammed. I recently watched a report out of Boston where snowplow drivers were bemoaning that the winds were filling the roads with snow as fast as they could remove it.
My parents and much of my family still live in Maine. In some sections they have received well over ten feet of snow this winter, much of it coming within the last month. In fact, they had somewhat of a reprieve for a while. Snow came very early, but around Christmas time there wasn’t much on the ground. Recently that’s changed a lot.
Temperatures have been oppressive too. Normally snowstorms are more severe if temperatures are relatively mild, since the air can hold much more moisture at 25 degrees than it can at negative digits. Some of this latest precipitation has come even though the thermometer readings suggest accumulations should be slight.
Some people look for silver linings and I like to do that too. Lately, a few people have asked me if the recent cold weather will mean fewer insect problems in the spring. I wish I could reassure them it would, but there are many other factors that influence insect survival than temperature alone.
While it’s true that all arthropods perish if exposed to extremely cold temperatures for prolonged periods, many still survive. Insect types and other circumstances are factors we can’t ignore. Snow cover, mulching depth, soil moisture, predators, parasites and pathogens are but a few variables with similar influence.
Sometimes cold weather might kill many insects, but it might also do even more harm to others which feed on them. Even if over half are killed by winter if other factors aren’t negatively affected, populations will rebound quickly.
On the positive side mild winters aren’t necessarily going to mean huge insect populations either. Temperature is but one factor. That said, you can’t convince everyone. If the winter were mild many would be parroting the high bug population scare, which is often as erroneous as the harsh winter bug-killing scenario.
All things considered, we haven’t had things that rough this winter here so far. Energy prices have been down and we haven’t had snow loads to do the same for our roofs. That’s one of the advantages of living in the south.
I’m sure the people of New England are glad their football team won the Super Bowl, but the rest of the winter hasn’t been as pleasant. Likely this harsh winter has taken some of the air out of their celebrations. Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one. I can say that though. I followed that team decades ago when they rarely won a game.
Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School.