Insects suffer from fluctuating temperatures this winter in Alberta

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Insects are suffering from fluctuating temperatures this winter in Alberta

Insects such as caterpillars burrow deep into the ground to survive the cold winter months.

Insect mortality rates may increase in Alberta because of the sudden weather fluctuations that have been observed since the beginning of this winter, according to experts.

After freezing cold weather in December, the province experienced snowmelt in the first weeks of February after rising temperatures.

Some have even thought of a early arrival of spring. However, the weather forecast announces further colds of up to -30° Celsius by the end of February.

We're going to have pretty low temperatures ending this month, says Kyle Fougere, meteorologist at Environment and Climate Change Canada.

These abrupt variations are not likely to do any good to insects, points out Peter Heule, supervisor of live animals at the Royal Alberta Museum.

According to the biologist, sudden changes in temperature cause a lot of insect deaths.

“Sometimes overwintering or hibernating is a risky business. »

— Peter Heule, supervisor at the Royal Alberta Museum

Insects such as caterpillars and butterflies can emerge early in long warm spells and perish if they do not find host plants during sudden cooling, adds the expert.

While some insects are able to find their hiding place when temperatures start to drop again, many find themselves trapped, adds Peter Heule.

“But how many are going to be able to find their way back to shelter or maybe get stuck in these cold temperatures.

— Peter Heule, biologist.

During the winter, some insects burrow deep into the ground, waiting for warmer weather.

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Peter Heule is the Live Animal Supervisor at the Royal Alberta Museum. He collects and identifies insects from across Canada for the museum.

Our wolf spiders, our springtails – a lot of different things are active under the snow, says Peter Heule.< /p>

Wolf spiders remain active through the winter, sheltering under snow or leaf litter during the colder months.

Invertebrates survive by producing a kind of antifreeze or cryoprotectant in their bodies.

Antifreeze allows body tissues to remain liquid even when we are below zero. , he says.

Even with these adaptations, insects also need a layer of insulation, seeking refuge just under the snow or leaf litter of a yard.

There are ways protect insects that are beneficial to plant growth in backyards during winter variability, such as snowmelt. Peter Heule lets know that there are tricks that can protect the insects you want in your yard to help your plants grow.

“Put dead leaves in garden beds so that it is a more reliable cover than snow. Many [insects] use this protection. »

— Peter Heule, Royal Alberta Museum.

It's not until next spring that we will know precisely how much the insect population has been impacted by recent temperature fluctuations in Alberta, concludes the expert.

With information from Christy Climenhaga

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