Does Cold Weather Kill Pesky Insects?

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Whether or not winter is your favorite season, I’m sure most of us can agree that one benefit to the frigid New England temperatures is the reduction in some of our dreaded warm weather insects. But just how many insects are affected by the drop in temperature, and do they actually die off, or do they just go into hibernation? Read on to learn more about what kind of pests are affected by winter weather, and which ones still need your attention to manage during the cold months.

Many wasp species, including yellow jackets and white faced hornets, will build a new nest each spring. The workers will die off as the weather gets cold and the pregnant queen will find a sheltered place to overwinter and wait for the warm weather. We often get calls from customers who experience wasps getting into their home as the weather cools off.

This commonly happens when the wasps have created a nest within the walls of your home earlier in the season. These types of nests can sometimes go unnoticed while they grow throughout the warmer months, especially if the entry point is an inconspicuous area. As the weather cools off the wasps are searching for warmth and light, and can appear slow or drowsy as they crawl on walls or light fixtures inside your home. If you experience this, do not try to seal the entry point, as this will force them to find another exit from their nest within the wall. We recommend you call a professional to treat the nest, as even though the wasps appear slow, they can definitely still sting! The best way to prevent new nests from forming as the weather warms up is by applying a preventative treatment, such as our Bee Barrier, at the beginning of the nesting season to protect your home all season long.

Ticks are experts at surviving the cold season. While you don’t have to worry as much about interacting with them when the temperatures drop below freezing, they will quickly reawaken on a mild day. If you are outdoors taking advantage of a warm winter day, be sure to wear long sleeves and use caution when moving around in tick-prone areas such as wooded areas or tall grasses.

They will find a warm spot to burrow and wait out the winter months, sometimes under leaf piles or other plant debris. An added blanket of snow provides an extra layer of insulation and protection. To help prevent ticks from emerging in your yard in the spring, move any leaf piles or organic debris away from areas that are commonly used.

Unfortunately, fleas are a year-round nuisance pest. They can die off outdoors when temperatures are below freezing, but when enjoying the toasty warm interior of your home, they can survive all winter long. Outdoor temperatures of 37ºF or lower are cold enough to kill mature fleas, eggs, larvae and pupae, but only if these chilly temperatures are sustained for at least 10 days in a row.

In addition, the pupae can often go dormant in cooler areas of the home, coming back out to infest the home once temperatures warm up in the springtime. Due to the nature of these pests, you may need treatment for them all year long. If you have pets in your home, we recommend speaking to your veterinarian about year-round flea treatment options.

Many people think that cold, freezing temps are an effective method of exterminating bed bugs, but that is simply not the case, as reported by The New York Times. These insects spend their winter in dormancy, sleeping it away as they await the warmer weather.

Occasionally, they will awake too early when a warm day occurs in late winter, and this can decrease their chance of survival. However, when the weather stays cold all season long then the bed bugs simply become active again when the weather warms up, never having been killed off. So if you are putting off treatment for bed bugs in hopes that the cold weather will resolve your issue, we highly suggest you seek treatment now rather than putting it off.

Many people are under the impression that there is an influx of spiders coming indoors in the winter months to stay out of the cold. However, according to Rod Crawford, Curator of Arachnids at the Burke Museum at the University of Washington, more than 95% of spiders you encounter in your home have spent their entire lives inside.

They seek out secluded areas to hide and avoid human contact. Some species like the garden orb weaver will use these secluded areas in your home to lay eggs that will be protected for the winter while the mature adults die off. Other species find a sheltered area outdoors, such as wood or rock piles, to rest for the winter and enter a state called diapause. In this state their metabolism will slow down and they will actually create an antifreeze-like chemical which will keep them from freezing in cold temperatures. On warmer winter days and as spring approaches, they will awake from their dormant states to hunt for food before going back to rest.

If you do happen to see more spiders than usual in your home as the cooler months approach, they are likely males wandering in hopes of finding a mate. While many people fear spiders and they can become a nuisance, very few of them are actually harmful to humans. Indoor spiders can also be a good indicator that you have other insect issues at hand. If you can handle sharing your space with them, house spiders will actually benefit you by consuming other unwanted insect invaders.

Homeowners will often notice a decrease in ant activity once the temperatures drop consistently below 50ºF. This can often lead to the belief that their ant problem is over, but unfortunately that may not be the case.

Once the cooler weather arrives ants will prepare for winter by building their nests deep underground, underneath rock or wood piles, or sometimes within the walls of your home. They are a cold-blooded species that relies on their environment to regulate their body temperature. To do so in the winter means that they will stock up on fat, reduce movement, and enter a dormant state throughout the cold months.

So, while you may not see any ants crawling throughout your home, it doesn’t mean that they are dead or even gone, it just means that they are hibernating until the warm weather returns. For this reason, we recommend that our quarterly ant service customers continue their fall treatments even if they are not noticing any activity. Once the spring arrives and temperatures are sustained above 50ºF, you may find yourself with a flurry of ants rushing to find food as they come out of hibernation. If you experience this, give us a call and we can get you set-up with a treatment plan that works for you.

Richland Pest & Bee Control has been serving the state of Connecticut for over 45 years. For help controlling nuisance insects like spiders, ants, and wasps, we offer multiple solutions and can customize treatment plans to suit your needs and your budget. Give us a call at 1-800-308-9126, or contact us online for a free estimate.

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I'm a writer who focuses on the outdoors and travel. I share my time between Alaska and Colorado, where, when I'm not writing, I enjoy camping, kayaking, hiking, fishing, and skiing (often with dogs in tow). My byline may also be seen in publications such as The New York Times, National Geographic, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and others.


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