Cleveland expert on bugs says polar vortex may not have killed off as many bugs as reported

2014 experiment provided ‘anecdotal evidence’

Cleveland expert on bugs says polar vortex may not have killed off as many bugs as reported
A 2014 report that said the a polar vortex may have killed of 95 percent of stink bugs might be as stinky as the bugs themselves. (Source: Wikipedia)

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - On Tuesday it was widely reported a Virginia Tech study said the polar vortex likely killed off 95 percent of stink bugs.

But an Associate Curator of Invertebrate Zoology for the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (CMNH) is now indicating something may stink here.

First, that study was done during the polar vortex of 2014, not last month.

According to Dr. Nicole L. Gunter with CMNH the experiment wasn’t designed to test survival in extreme temperatures so take the reported numbers with a grain of salt .

“These bugs were left outside in ventilated buckets with foam insulation tubes that was designed to keep the bugs alive but in a dormant state until spring for further experiments in Dr Kuhar’s Virginia Tech lab,” Gunter said after reviewing the 2014 study. “This report of mortality comes from anecdotal evidence of survival and not actual designed experimentation on temperature survival and may or may not actually represent overwintering habitat of these bugs.”

Cleveland expert on bugs says polar vortex may not have killed off as many bugs as reported

One of the problems with stink bugs is they tend to move indoors where it’s warm, so to say 95 percent of them were killed because of the below zero temperatures is tough to calculate.

That’s why you see them in your home this time of year.

“More recently, other researchers have rigorously tested survival in temperature-controlled experiments of and reported 65% mortality at -15C/5F and 13% mortality at -10C/14F. Certainly many bugs that are exposed to the coldest temperatures will die but many bugs will find warmer overwintering sites and will survive,” Gunter said.

In Gunter’s opinion, even though January’s temperature were brutal, it wasn’t bad enough to wipe out entire bug populations in Northeast Ohio.

“We may see reduced numbers this spring, summer, but it’s impossible to measure the impact in annual abundance without baseline data to compare and any reports would just be a gut feeling or anecdotal evidence,” Gunter said. “I imagine some of these insect populations will bounce back later this year and others recover in the following years but populations will eventually return to normal.”

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