LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) — We've been on a weather roller coaster with high temperatures above 70 degrees the first part of this week, then cold and wet today, Feb. 21.
How this impacts the bug population is the question tonight that Arkansans are asking. We verify, will a mild winter mean more bugs this summer?
Our sources include a pest control operator and an entomologist.
They swarm. They're an annoyance. They bite. And they sometimes spread disease.
Chances are you may not give much thought to mosquitoes until you get a red, itchy bump on your skin.
"When you see a spike in the weather you see abnormal activity with mosquitoes or flying insects, and you begin to think it'll be a bad year for 'em or something of that nature," Ronnie Grice with Arkansas Pest Control Services said.
He said there are several factors that go into whether it's going to be a bad year for bugs. University of Arkansas Urban Entomologist John Hopkins agrees.
"The big answer for that is it depends," Hopkins said. "Temperature is not the only thing that affects insects as they come out of their wintering sites. Oftentimes it does take a hard freeze for insects to die and to decrease the population as well."
And it's not just a hard freeze, Hopkins said.
"It's the sustained period of high temperatures below freezing that has an impact," he said.
That sustained period, two weeks or more of freezing daytime high temperatures is what decreases an insect population. So far this year, that hasn't happened in central Arkansas. So does that mean bugs will, in fact, be worse?
"Basically if you have a mild winter, insects have the potential to increase their population sooner than they would if they had a very harsh winter," Hopkins said.
The key word being potential.
"Moisture in the springtime, whether there's adequate food resources — those are things that also affect whether insects are gonna increase and be bad in the summer."
So if we have a wet spring, the mosquito population could increase more quickly. If we have a dry spring, it may take them a little longer. Regardless — Hopkins has a prediction.
"My prediction is: insects will be about like they always are in AR, you'll have to worry about them," he said.
Hopkins also says mosquitoes nowadays have the ability to change the composition of the fluids in their bodies and build up what he calls an "antifreeze-type substance." So even with a hard freeze, in Arkansas, we will still have mosquitos.