Lessons about Frozen Stink Bugs and Polar Vortex

Stink bugs didn’t earn the moniker “terrorist bugs” for no reason; they are a nuisance in the lawn and garden and irksome pests indoors. Stink bugs are native to Asian countries and they have no natural enemies to check their population in the US where they are spreading fast in about 40 states and several Canadian provinces.  

This is why stink bug haters have to rely on human efforts to keep them off their properties. If your home and garden are especially prone to their invasion, you can seek the help of pest control experts who have the technologies to control their population. It would still be sensible and interesting to learn new facts that promise to help in their control; such is the effect of exposing them to freezing temperatures.  

Surviving Winter

These pesky insects can very well survive extremely cold weathers because of particular adaptive attributes:

• They hide in the warm areas of your homes – in attics, under shingles, or in the walls. They only emerge from overwintering when conditions get better or temperature goes up close to spring.

• Their metabolism slows downs during winter as they enter the state of “diapause,” which is akin to “hibernation.” With a slower metabolism, their nutritional needs are reduced so they don’t need to get out of their hiding places to eat as often. 

• The drop in the temperature triggers a change in their physiology. They produce more “freeze proteins” functioning as “polyol cryoprotectants.” These prevent the crystallization or freezing of their body fluids. 

The Freezing Experiment 

• Thomas Kuhar, an entomologist of the Virginia Tech, found out that 95 to 98 percent of these stinking bugs can be killed by exposing them to freezing temperatures below 5 degrees Celsius. 

• The setup of the experiment was such that the test animals were placed in 5-gallon buckets containing foam insulation tubes. These were stored outdoors to expose them to winter elements.

• Critiques observed that stink bugs don’t normally live in buckets and get themselves exposed to harsh winter temperatures. Once the temperature drops and other signs of the cold season start to set in, they hide in warm places. Michael Rupp, another expert entomologist from Maryland, commented that it was just a single observation and the simulated condition isn’t usually what occurs.

Impact of the Polar Vortex Chill

• Bugs came out of their hiding places to cause a sudden invasion in Washington last January 29 to 31, 2013. It is believed to be triggered by the favorable warm temperature (66 to 72 degrees Celsius) pervading the area at the time. 

• Around the same time/month of 2014, the mercury dropped in the Washington area close to the temperature of Kuhar’s experiment due to cold air intrusions from the Arctic; this is referred to as the “Polar Vortex.” 

• The result of Kuhar’s experiment got many people (including scientists and pest control professionals) wondering if the number of stink bugs will go down by spring of 2014. If the Polar Vortex were to happen more often, it is intriguing to know if it can impact the bug population in diapause the following winter. 

If you live in College Station TX where the temperature never drops below 5 degrees, there is little chance that a Polar Vortex can save you from stink bugs, if it really works. You obviously need to rely on your efforts and the help you can get from the pest control experts in the area. 


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