Warm winter wakes insects early

In this Thursday, April 14, 2011, shown is a brown marmorated stink bug at a Penn State research station in Biglerville, Pa. The relatively new pest originally from Asia is threatening to wreak havoc on mid-Atlantic orchards. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

COLUMBUS (WCMH)—The brown marmorated stink bug is starting to show up again in homes and garages, though these annoying insects have actually been hanging out unseen for months in warm crevices since late autumn.

This invasive Asian pest arrived in Ohio from Pennsylvania and neighboring Eastern states in 2003, mostly by hitching a ride on motor vehicles and freight. Now we can’t seem to get rid of them as they enter homes through cracks around windows in the fall in search of warmth.

Dr. David Shetlar, an OSU entomologist, said, “The lady beetles and the stink bugs have been hibernating.  When they warm up, they never seem to be able to get out the way they came in, so they come inside the house and irritate people.”

Our exceptionally mild winter is bringing the stink bugs—which issue an awful odor if cornered or squished—out in the open again.

Shetlar added that most insects that overwinter as adults or pupae produce their own antifreeze to survive until the following spring.

“They can withstand maybe two weeks of warm weather, but if it goes further than that they’re liable to break their winter dormancy,” Shetlar said.

Ironically, Shetlar added that prolonged warm spells are dangerous to certain insects, rather than breeding more spring bugs, because they give up the protective internal shield and become susceptible to running out of energy, freezing and dying in a late winter cold spell.

Native bees and even some honeybees are starting to stir on these warm days, which will require extra attention from beekeepers to ensure they don’t run out of food and energy early in the year.

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