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Freezing temperatures are good news and bad news for pests

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Posted: Thursday, February 20, 2014 10:00 pm | Updated: 1:37 am, Thu May 15, 2014.

(BPT) - The newest buzz word this winter is “Polar Vortex.” Most of the country has experienced weeks of extremely cold temperatures, and these repeated bouts of ice and snow could have an impact on local pest populations.

Rodents and mosquitoes may not be homeowners’ main concerns at the moment, but experts from the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) want to be sure the temperature’s effect on pests is not overlooked.

Many pest species have methods for coping with the cold. Some enter an overwintering state called diapause or produce an antifreeze-type liquid to protect their bodies. Others avoid the cold by finding their way into heated homes, and believe it or not, some insects can actually stay alive and insulated from the freezing cold air by being buried in snow. Especially in areas that have experience with harsh winters, pests have adapted to the cold. Even if the temperatures are detrimental to the adults, they have most likely already laid eggs that will hatch in spring.

However, with such extreme temperatures, there is a good chance that summer pest populations could be smaller. This is determined, in part, by the number and length of hard freezes during the winter. Repeated freeze-thaw cycles are more likely to affect pests than a gradual cooling. Also, low temperatures for an extended time are more likely to reach insects buried deep in the ground. The biggest difference could be seen in areas of the South that do not usually experience this type of winter weather.

To both prevent a pest infestation and curb future pest populations the NPMA has the following tips for homeowners battling the cold:

* Watch out for ice dams. Heat escaping from a home can cause snow to melt on the roof. Sometimes the melted water refreezes around the cooler edges of the roof creating an ice dam that prevents water from properly draining. This moisture can seep into the attic and siding causing mold to grow and can attract pests.

* Install or repair weather stripping. Windows and doors offer the easiest access into a home. Weather stripping and door sweeps will help keep out the cold, as well as pests.

* Manage melting ice and snow. Especially in areas unaccustomed to snowfall, the thawing period can be just as difficult to manage. Pools of water are breeding grounds for pests, specifically mosquitoes. Homeowners should make sure old tires, pool covers, empty pots and other outdoor containers are regularly emptied of rain or melted snow.

* Repair damage to siding, windows and roofs. Cold temperatures and ice can cause damage to vulnerable areas of a home. Regularly checking for and repairing any cracks or holes around the outside of the house will protect it from pests looking to get indoors.

For more information on preventing household pests and pest-proofing tips, visit PestWorld.org.

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