Rachel Warren / Houma Courier
Thanks to an unusually cold winter, southeast Louisiana parishes will probably see fewer pests and insects in the coming months.
Local experts say the harsh weather will probably delay the annual onslaught of mosquitoes, caterpillars, moths and other bugs until later in the summer.
Jared Lajaunie, owner of Lajaunie's Pest and Termite Control in Thibodaux, said he's seen fewer insects than normal so far this year.
“Typically, the season would be in full swing right now,” he said. “But due to the long winter, it's still not anywhere close to what it should be.”
Lajaunie said he believes the decreased number of insects is due to the cold weather of the past few months.
That's because most insects, such as caterpillars and mosquitoes, didn't survive the unusually-cold winter, said Timothy Schowalter, head of the LSU AgCenter entomology department,
Schowalter said winters that are harsher than normal generally reduce the number of insects in the early springtime.
“Insects are not warm-blooded like us and they're very small,” he said. “They're sensitive to extreme temperatures.”
During the winter, insects typically burrow underground or hide in plants to keep warm. But if the temperature drops lower than normal, it can affect even the best-prepared bug.
“Basically, the colder it is, the deeper it will penetrate into the ground,” Schowalter said. “So insects that might normally be fine during the winter are exposed to much colder conditions.”
The result, he said, is a decreased number of insects buzzing around town.
But bug-free bliss won't last forever.
Cold temperatures kill off adult insects, but once the weather warms up, eggs will begin hatching.
“Eggs typically require a specific accumulation of degree days, which means it has to be a specific temperature for a certain number of days before they hatch,” Schowalter said. “If there's a colder winter, hatching takes longer.”
Once the eggs hatch, Schowalter said it's only a matter of time before the insect population is back to normal.
“Because they can reproduce so quickly, the reduced number of insects won't last long,” he said.
Schowalter said he expects the insect population to be back in full swing by mid-summer.
Lajaunie said the area may even see more mosquitoes than normal later this year because of delayed hatch cycles.
When the cold weather lets up, mosquito eggs may all begin hatching at once, leading to an unusually high number of pests.
“There will be more eggs hatching at one time,” he said. “Once it warms up, that may lead to an increase in mosquito activity.”