All that cold and the dang bugs survived

The eastern spruce budworm may survive winters as cold as 30 below. (PHOTO: Paul Williams, Flickr CC)

You know the old trope. As the horror movie concludes, the virtuous teenagers are safe, the villain is dead, and the credits roll. But then, at the very end, the camera zooms back in on the death mask of the evil antagonist. Suddenly, glowing red eyes open wide. He lives! No one is safe and you’re going to have to pay another $9 next year to see how this *really* ends.

So it goes for another horrible Minnesota winter and our hibernating bugs that nevertheless fail to die.

Minnesota Public Radio journalists Kirstie Marohn and Elizabeth Dunbar ran a story yesterday describing the “tree munching insects” that scientists say likely survived this year’s polar vortex.

Among them are the eastern spruce budworm (resilient to 30 degrees below zero), the forest tent caterpillar (-42) and the particularly hearty eastern larch beetle (-56).

Invasive species like the emerald ash borer can generally survive temperatures down to 28 below zero. We can hope we picked off most of them.

Parts of Northern Minnesota saw temperatures drop under 40 below zero in late January. Cotton threatened the state record at 56 below, but no colder. So we know that a lot of bugs had a bad winter.

But the real issue is that these creatures have become well aware of how nature and man alike seem to want them dead. They bore into trees and below the insulated snow line for a puncher’s chance at survival. In this way, many do survive and reproduce, bringing us right back to the buggy situation we’ll be complaining about in a few months.

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