This week’s rather unpleasant Polar Vortex brought a deep freeze to New York, and along with the frigid air came transportation delays, infrastructure damage, and a rush to buy more long underwear. Fortunately, every storm cloud has a silver lining, and The New York Times reported that several foresters and entomologists were celebrating one benefit of the icy weather: that it may have helped to curb a number of invasive insect species in the area.
Whether these pesky bugs were introduced to the United States, such as the hemlock woolly adelgid, or are native nuisances like the southern pine beetle, the dramatically low temperatures could have helped to decrease their populations. This is good news for trees, as the adeglid has killed hundreds of thousands of hemlocks in just Eastern Connecticut since its introduction from Japan in the 1950s. Although adeglids are usually able to survive the winter, rock-bottom temperatures like the ones we saw this week force ice crystals to form on their bodies and typically snuff them out.
But entomologists caution that even though a portion of the adelgid population could have been eliminated, some always survive to breed and their numbers could rebound in as little as two years. While the Polar Vortex was a welcome occurrence for pest control, overall warming means milder winters, faster insect recoveries, and the spread of invasive species. New York entomologists are at least hoping that the cold will control the tick population and reduce the spread of Lyme disease. So as you bundle up these next couple months and shiver by your heater, you can at least take heart that some trees are getting a little extra help in surviving the season.
Via the New York Times
Images via Wikicommons user Fae and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station Archive