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A bug-free summer? Not so fast

Published 1:01pm Tuesday, April 23, 2013

DULUTH — Abandon any hope one might have about a bug-free summer. Experts say the pests that bite and suck the blood of Minnesotans and devour the leaves on trees in the state’s forests are going to survive the extended winter just fine.

The late winter and extended snow cover aren’t likely to reduce the numbers of mosquitoes, ticks and blackflies, naturalist Larry Weber told the Duluth News Tribune for a story published Tuesday. He said they’ll just show up a bit later, and may even thrive better because of the insulation and water the snow is providing.

The story is the same for tree pests like army worms, whose numbers are climbing, said Mike Albers, a forest health specialist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Most of Minnesota’s insect pests are well adapted to the harsh climate, Albers said.

“For the most part, those insects just sit there and wait until they get that warmer weather,” he said. “We haven’t had enough warm weather to get any of them thinking of coming out.”

Many insect species survive winters as eggs or as “immatures.” Blackflies, for example, pass the winter as immatures in moving water. Among the blood suckers, “blackflies will likely be the least affected. … I would look for them in May,” Weber said.

After mosquitoes emerge, he said, they’ll probably benefit from all the breeding pools created by the snowmelt.

Ticks largely survive as immatures in leaf litter. Snow protects them from the bitter cold. Both deer and wood ticks typically are out by now.

“This is their season,” Weber said. “However, they are tough critters and I think they will survive.”

In 2011, army worms defoliated about 60,000 acres throughout Minnesota; last year they stripped about 250,000 acres, mostly in small pockets scattered around the state. They pass the winter as larvae in egg masses.

“They are just sitting there, waiting until it warms up so they can start coming out,” Albers said. “They are pretty well-adapted to come out when the aspen leaves start coming out.”

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