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Earth Science

VA Tech Experiment: Polar Vortex May Decimate D.C. Stinkbugs In 2014 112

barlevg writes "Each fall, a team led by Virginia Tech Professor of Entomology Thomas Kuhar gathers brown marmorated stink bugs from around campus and plops them into ventilated and insulated five-gallon buckets designed to simulate the habitats in which the bugs naturally wait out the winter. While previous lab tests have shown the insects capable of surviving chills of -20 C, last month's polar vortex proved too much for the little guys, with only 5% surviving the sustained cold conditions. This suggests that the DC area's population of stink bugs and other overwintering insects should be much lower come spring than in previous years."
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VA Tech Experiment: Polar Vortex May Decimate D.C. Stinkbugs In 2014

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  • Hurray? (Score:3, Funny)

    by kylemonger ( 686302 ) on Saturday February 22, 2014 @12:43AM (#46309171)
    Who's in favor of more stinkbugs in the spring?
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Loss of one species in an environment can have enormous ripple effects. I don't know what stinkbugs eat or what eats stinkbugs but I'm sure something does. Those impacts go both up and down.

      • Re:Hurray? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 22, 2014 @12:57AM (#46309219)

        They are an invasive species that was accidentally introduced in 1998.

        But I don't know enough about them to say that they haven't filled some gap left by the disappearance of another species, heavily predated another species, or drawn more birds/whatever to the area than will be able to be supported by the environment without stinkbugs.

        This is "good" news due to the whole invasive species thing, though, we'll just have to see if it has any other effects. Though, as an invasive species. I'm not sure that they've been reduced to a low enough level to actually be wiped out; if they're still lacking successful competition, as you would expect since it's been less than 20 years, they will probably bounce right back. (barring further strange weather that eliminates them more completely)

        • Re:Hurray? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by The Grim Reefer ( 1162755 ) on Saturday February 22, 2014 @01:44AM (#46309345)

          They destroy fruit crops and try to survive through the winter by invading houses. I think I've found one flying around my house just about every week this winter. I read about a house around here that they estimated had 25, 000 of them in it.

          They have no natural predators in the US. The only thing I've seen eat them is my dog. Which would be funny, except he's a 95 pound Doberman and scratches the hell out of my hardwood floors jumping and chasing after them.

      • by Bodero ( 136806 )

        Loss of one species in an environment can have enormous ripple effects.

        FTFA, Stinkbugs were first observed in the US in 1998.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Politicians eat stinkbugs, so if their food supply is reduced, their species may become extinct. I fear this occurrence may place an undue period of elevated happiness and prosperity upon this great nation so we must protect the stinkbugs, and by extension Politicians at all costs.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Politicians eat stinkbugs

          I KNEW they were cannibals!

    • Re:Hurray? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by houstonbofh ( 602064 ) on Saturday February 22, 2014 @12:59AM (#46309227)
      It Houston, we love the years when we have at least two hard freezes separated by at least a week. It drastically cuts down on the mosquitoes the next summer. This year we had three good ones so summer should be much more pleasant at night.
      • Hopefully less fleas too.

        On the article- if 5% did manage to survive- then there is your natural selection in action.

        Their offspring will probably be more able to survive freezes.

      • Depends. Overall I think you are correct. I seem to remember one season in Houston where we had a bad outbreak of mosquitos because they hatched near the coast and migrated N and NW. Last I checked, the coast rarely if ever falls below freezing even if Houston does. The Gulf of Mexico holds a lot of thermal energy throughout the winter to keep the air above it relatively warm.

    • This bug is the DC stinkbug. If ever there was a place that needed a bug that feeds on stink, that is it...
    • by flyneye ( 84093 )

      Will there be special elections to replace them?

  • by Dorianny ( 1847922 ) on Saturday February 22, 2014 @12:50AM (#46309187) Journal
    Oh great now there will be nothing to cover the stench of the politicians in congress.
    • I've killed dozens of stinkbugs, and I never smelled anything. But maybe I'm inured to the odor of nearby Washington...

      • It could be that they were not stinkbugs you were killing. It could have been Coreidae, or squash bugs. They are in the same Infraorder and look similar.
        • It could be that they were not stinkbugs you were killing. It could have been Coreidae, or squash bugs. They are in the same Infraorder and look similar.

          They do squash very nicely, so you might have a point. Nevertheless, if there's fewer of them, I'll be happy.

    • by sconeu ( 64226 )

      I was going to say that there will still be plenty of stinkbugs in Congress, but yours is better.

  • All the breathless Polar Vortex talk reminds me of yesteryear when the local TV weather people discovered the big, bad "El Nino."

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      You make it sound like introducing new ideas to the public is somehow morally dubious.

      The El Niño/Southern Oscillation was described some eighty years ago, but it was relatively obscure stuff until there was a big uptick in scientific interest in the mid-80s. Researchers began to realize that this phenomenon had huge, predictable consequences on weather across the globe. I remember because my wife was a grad student at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution at the time. It's not surprising that it

      • You seem to be missing the point about how the public misinterprets and overattributes things to "teh new hotness".

        Every thunderstorm is a derecho now, all hot summer days are global warming, El Nino... well, let's just leave it at the Chris Farley skit on SNL, "superstorms", and now any two sequential days around -18 C will be termed a polar vortex. Hell, and these are just *weather* terminology examples.

        Frankly, I'm surprised you aren't a little more miffed about the ambiguity the public injects into what

    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      Yep, it is great how the press picks up on argot. Remember "ordnance" during the first Gulf War, and "spider hole" during the second. Then there was "starey decisis" during (I think it was) the Robert's Supreme Court confirmation. Once the press gloms on to a new phrase, we want to shoot the next reporter uttering it.

  • by StefanJ ( 88986 ) on Saturday February 22, 2014 @01:00AM (#46309235) Homepage Journal

    I sometimes hear the effects of climate change blown off with glib remarks about longer growing seasons.

    The truth is, good hard winters are good for certain types of agriculture. Freezing and thawing churns up the soil. Hard frosts kill off weeds and pests.

    Now we have another data point.

    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Saturday February 22, 2014 @02:19AM (#46309467) Homepage Journal

      True, but global warming doesn't mean we won't have good, hard winters. Sometimes we'll have them in places where such winters were seldom seen previously.

      The reason that "climate change" is a better term than "global warming" is that "global warming" seems to conjure up a spurious picture where everywhere on the Earth is going to get noticeably hotter. In reality we're talking about *global averages* going up a degree or two at most over the next couple of decades. That's not much temperature-wise. A one degree change uniformly applied across the globe wouldn't close many ski resorts, for example, or make it nice to swim in the Gulf of Maine.

      The real issue is that degree of average temperature increase across the globe represents a huge total addition of energy to the atmosphere. That in turn means that what previously would have been anomalous weather will become more common: hotter OR colder than normal; wetter or drier; longer or shorter seasons than previously experienced. These changes will put stress on plants, animals and human communities to adapt. A February cold snap might be a good thing for a New England apple orchard, but it's lousy for a Florida orange grove.

    • by khallow ( 566160 )
      Looks more like another glib data point for confirmation bias.
  • Don't decimate. Annihilate the bums in Washington.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Come on...

    • Come on...

      I thought 'decimate' meant to append extraneous punctuation to a statement...

      Eg: It would be decimating if I told you, "Sorry, when you told me to, 'Come on', it seemed rather open ended..."

    • Doesn't it mean to reduce to one tenth of the previous value (meaning this would be double decimation), not to reduce by a mere tenth?
      • by skywire ( 469351 )

        Originally, it meant to reduce by one tenth. It has evolved to mean "nearly wiped out".

  • now if it could only decimate the D.C. population of politicians

  • by Retron ( 577778 ) on Saturday February 22, 2014 @01:29AM (#46309299)

    And on the other side of the Atlantic, the strong jetstream (caused by the abnormal cold in the eastern States) has led to one of the mildest and wettest winters on record in England. I was surprised when last weekend I saw swarms of newly-hatched flies buzzing around the fields of Berkshire; you don't normally see those until late March or early April. To see them in mid-February is quite remarkable. We'll be in a for a miserable spring and summer over here as there will be far more insects buzzing around than normal due to the almost complete lack of frost this "winter" (and I use the term loosely, as for millions of us in the south of the UK it's just been an extended autumn this year!)

    • Yeah, it's going to be horrid in Stockholm this spring and summer, I fear. The city lies close to the water, and there are lots of boggy/forest-y bits in the surrounding area. And I happen to live right next door to the Nacka Reserve [wikipedia.org] which is nothing but woods and wetland filled with all manner of wildlife--including mosquitoes that remain active until the temperature gets below 2C or so. We NEED about 3-4 weeks at -10C or colder in order to kill off those little bastards... and so far this year, that has s

      • I think it makes sense that mosquitoes in northern climes are worse than more temperate regions. They have a shorter season to deal with and have probably evolved to be more aggressive in order to get done what they need to get done. It's kind of like humans in tropical regions tend to have a more laid back attitude about life since they don't have as many challenges to deal with as humans who live where the seasons are more pronounced.

    • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Saturday February 22, 2014 @04:44AM (#46309827) Journal
      Last week in Melbourne we had out of control bushfires and heatwaves, last night I put the heater on for a couple of hours to ward off a blast of cold Antarctic air. The west of the continent also received one of it's rare desert downpours last week, about 2-4 weeks from now there will be an opportunity to see the west in full bloom, the eggs of fish, amphibians, insects, and crustaceans that have lay dormant in the parched earth for years will explode into life and everything will be carpeted with wildflowers. Migratory birds have already abandoned the coastal wetlands around Perth and are swarming to the temporary inland lakes in their millions. How the birds know this natural feast is about to occur is still a mystery. It's an irregular natural spectacle, and in a couple of months it will all be gone.
    • Same in Ireland, we had this endless summer, the only thing approaching cold was in the last couple of weeks. Which is a pity really as I love ice and snow. Yes, I looked at those pictures of a snow covered US with envy.

    • News about England has not really hit the states as usual. The only reason we knew of warmer temps on your side is through Sochi.
      At least we have gotten rid of some of the pests but others are flourishing like mosquitoes which I killed 2 last week in the south. Normally we would not see them until late March or April which after the cold we had should have taken them out.
  • Most of DC's stink bugs have heated offices - not to mention plenty of interns to keep them warm through the cold winter nights.

  • Hopefully it'll screw up our pine beetles out west, too.
    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      Hopefully it'll screw up our pine beetles out west, too.

      Not here in BC - the weather's been warm this winter. Springlike at a minimum.

      Sure there was a week or two where it actually went to -10 or so, but that's nothing for the pine beetles - they need like a sustained -20C for a couple of weeks to die off.

      In fact, the entire west coast of continental North America has been fairly warm and pleasant (and dry - this may not be too good for water reservoirs which are fed by snowmelt), while out in the east ever

  • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Saturday February 22, 2014 @02:35AM (#46309491)

    The rule has always been a good, hard winter means less sickness the next year. I don't know if that means less animals or insects transporting agents of disease or what.

  • I'm callin' BS... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by voodoo cheesecake ( 1071228 ) on Saturday February 22, 2014 @02:36AM (#46309497)

    They won't be decimated, they survive here in Alaska. Not sure if it's an adaptation but they make it through 8 months of snow and ice just fine.

  • 5% survival is not being decimated. That would be 90% survival. If the guy is a scientist of sorts, you'd think he could get such a simple thing correct.

    • 5% survival is not being decimated. That would be 90% survival. If the guy is a scientist of sorts, you'd think he could get such a simple thing correct.

      And if you spoke English, you'd know that while decimate used to be killing the tenth man, now it can also refer to any massive killing (including killing down to the tenth man.) Welcome to the world, where our languages are alive. You could always switch to Sanskrit...

  • a pseudonym?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This year, 95% of stinkbugs have been killed off due to extreme cold (-20C), leaving 5% left.

    In 5 years, the 5% that survived the -20% will be 100% of the population.

    The next polar vortex won't kill nearly as many because all those that are alive have already survived extreme cold and are thus genetically better than those that died this year.

    Darwinisn and natural selection in progress!

    • In 5 years, the 5% that survived the -20% will be 100% of the population.

      You mean that the 5% that survived need to wait 5 years before becoming 100% of the population?
      It seems to me they immediately make up 100% of the population.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It finally got up into the 50s yesterday and I had two in my (Northern VA) garage. It's not even Spring....

  • Hopefully it also works on stinkbugs infesting congress...
  • I have no doubt that the 5% will survive and multiply. The 5% that made it through are the strongest and most adaptable. That is the way nature works. Duh! I thought the guy was a professor. I wonder how the mosquitos did? Another post mentioned that this stink bug was an invasive species. Too bad, so sad..... In DC, all they have to do is let the politicians out of their cages and bullet proof cars. That would provide enough hot air to warm things up anyway.
    • by stdarg ( 456557 )

      Depends why the 5% survived. If they were in little microclimates that were warmer, or they hid indoors, or whatever, then cold tolerance is not an issue.

      Also, unless we start regularly getting polar vortexes, the cold tolerance could prove to be an "overoptimization" that makes them less competitive. The 0.1% of non-tolerant stink bugs will take over, and the next polar vortex will again have a 95% kill rate. Hypothetically.

  • I know my relatives up in Minnesota despite their bitching about it being -60 are glad that it's decimated the ash bore beetle infestation. Up here in the north east we're hoping it'll have the same effect on the Asian longhorn beetle as well.

    Though evolution being what it is, enough of these really cold winters and we'll just have populations of these insects that can winter over these temperatures.
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    • by N3Bruce ( 154308 )

      Seriously, International shipping was how the foul little critters got here in the first place, along with the other with nemesis to my grapes, roses, and hops, the Japanese Beetle. Zebra Mussels, which clog the intakes of hydroelectric and municipal water supply dams hitchhiked their way here in the bilge water of ships coming from the far east. It is not much of a stretch of imagination to see the population reseeded by produce trucks carrying their eggs and juveniles coming from areas not as hard hit by

  • ...they were referring to the professional denizens that inhabit the capitol?
  • Slashdot, I'm disappointed.

    Politicians and bureaucrats suddenly discover global warming is an ally, not a threat.

    Surely someone can do better.

  • Wish the polar vortex would get rid of the real pests in D.C., Congress.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.