All Hail the Polar Vortex, Slayer of Pests

Invasive species of bugs can't survive the cold, Gwynn Guilford argues
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 4, 2014 12:44 PM CST
The frozen mist from Niagara Falls coats the landscape around Prospect Point at Niagara Falls State Park, Jan. 7, 2014.   (AP Photo/The Niagara Gazette, James Neiss)

(Newser) – If you've just about had enough of the polar vortex, consider this: The severely cold weather we've been experiencing is "decimating the populations of destructive invasive insects that cost the US government and homeowners billions each year," writes Gwynn Guilford for Quartz. Doesn't sound so bad anymore, does it? In particular, the polar vortex has been hard on the hemlock woolly adelgid, a Japanese species that gobbles up hemlock forests; the gypsy moth, a European variety that eats the leaves of millions of acres of trees each year; and the emerald ash borer, a Eurasian beetle responsible for the deaths of millions of North American trees.

The emerald ash borer wreaked that destruction in just over 10 years, and has been called the "worst forest problem in our lifetime"—and 80% of the Minnesota population died in January, thanks to the cold. In some areas, the adelgids have died off completely. And other invasive insects, such as the southern pine beetle and the Asian stinkbug, have been similarly affected. That's the good news. The bad news: The cold may also be killing off predator insects that have been released in order to take out the invasive ones, and the populations of those insects may not recover as quickly. Also it's cold. Did we mention it's cold? Click for Guilford's full column.

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