University of Kentucky entomologist says state needs prolonged cold snap to cut down on invasive insects
Across much of the commonwealth Wednesday, the temperature was 80 degrees, or nearly so – threatening the record high for November 8th. Rick Bessin, a University of Kentucky professor and extension entomologist, said he likes warm weather. He also says biting and other nuisance insects do, too.
“This year, we have some invasive insects that we don't normally see that come up from the south. Things like the imported fire ants. On sweet corn, we saw a corn silk fly. And these are insects that really don't belong here.”
Bessin said fire ants have been found in several southeastern counties on the Tennessee border. Last summer, he and some of his colleagues went there to investigate.
“We've done some surveys and we've seen the extent of where they are, and they're in four different counties, we've treated them to try and knock them back. But you know, what I really hope for is that we can get a good, hard cold period for an extended period of time, such that the ground freezes.”
Bessin said bare ground is best, as snow serves as insulation for underground insect pests. He says climate change and the increased climate variability it brings is at least partly responsible for the southern insect invasion.
“When we run into situations where we have an extended warm fall, an extended early, warm spring, you know, that favors the earlier development of some of these pest populations. If they’re pests, that just means we have to suffer with them longer.”
Bessin noted that some helpful insects, like honeybees, fare better during mild winters. Overall, though, the longtime UK professor from California says …
“I hate to be quoted as saying, I want cold weather, but we need cold weather.”
I’m John McGary in Versailles.