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Environment

Get Ready For Summer Mosquitos: Most Bugs Survived The Winter Storm

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TPR's Jerry Clayton recently spoke with an entomologist about the effect of the recent winter freeze on local insects.

Jerry Clayton: Today is the first day of spring, and it's time for all those bugs to start coming out into the sunshine. How did the historic freeze in February affect our local insects? Will there be more or less of them this year? Dr. Jessica Beckham is an entomologist at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Thanks for being here today, Dr. Beckham.

Dr. Jessica Beckham: Yes, my pleasure.

Clayton: Now, a large percentage of the bats that overwinter in Texas were wiped out in this recent freeze. And I know that bats are one way that we control mosquitoes. Does this mean that there may be more mosquitoes this year in our area?

Beckham: You know, I wouldn't say that necessarily, that the bats dying off would cause there to be more mosquitoes. You know, it's not even a large proportion of their diet necessarily. So I don't know that the bats die off will mean that we will have more mosquitoes than we do in the past.

Clayton: Could the freeze have affected the mosquitoes or do they just come out unscathed out of all this?

Beckham: Yeah, so that's a really good question. Probably it's not going to affect them too much. Certainly there were probably some adults that were overwintering that got killed off. But generally speaking, a lot of the species will die off prior to the winter season. And they lay their eggs, and the eggs are really resilient against freezing temperatures, and those will emerge. And then honestly, the overwintering adults, they'll be females, and they tend to go into a dormant state and find a little cubbyhole that's protected from freezing temperatures. So unfortunately, I don't think it means that we will have fewer mosquitoes.

Clayton: Now, what about all those bugs that we love to hate, like scorpions, wasps? Will they die off from the freeze as well?

Beckham: Yeah. So similarly, some of them might have been unfortunate and and did not find a good place to kind of hide away. But again, it's not like they all got frozen to death and we will have fewer of them. So I wouldn't say unscathed. There were certainly some that perished, but generally speaking, the populations will still be fine. So you'll still have to worry about those that you don't like as well.

Clayton: Now we have a big rosemary bush in our front yard at the house, and it was covered in bees all the time. Well, after the freeze, of course, the rosemary bushes, no more. And it seems to me like the bees are very hungry. Are they going to make it this year?

Beckham: Yeah, absolutely. The bees are certainly going to make it. They're like you. I've seen some of the the plants that typically feed the honeybees in the wintertime that have perished from the freeze. But right now, right across the street from me, I see the redbud blooming. It's the the spring flowers are starting to bloom and the bees are going to be fine. And I should also mention that honeybees, they are able to warm their hives. And so those honeybee hives, for the most part, would have been fine. And all of the native bees typically are dormant over the winter. So they weren't really looking for anything.

Clayton: I've heard a lot of people say, "oh, we should maybe feed the bees because so much of their food got destroyed in the freeze." Should people try to feed bees or just let nature take its course?

Beckham: No, no. You shouldn't try and feed the bees unless you're talking about growing flowers. That's a way to feed the bees. But you don't need to set out sugar water or anything like that. They'll take care of themselves, and they'll be able to find the flowers that are blooming.

Clayton: Jessica Beckham, thank you so much for joining us and shedding some light on this.

Beckham: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.

Clayton: Dr. Jessica Beckham is an entomologist and lecturer II in the Department of Environmental Science and Ecology at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

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