Wisconsin’s Insect Population Buzzes to Life with Early Warm Weather

As temperatures rise, Wisconsin’s insect population is springing into action, signaling a potentially early start to the bug season. With approximately 20 thousand different insect species in the state, varying strategies help them survive the winter, but warm weather can prompt their activity sooner than expected.

“While certain species may still be dormant as eggs, others, such as adults, have begun their activities due to the unusually warm temperatures,” explains PJ Liesch, state entomologist.

This early activity could lead to an overall earlier start to the insect season in Wisconsin. However, the impact of prolonged warm spells in spring and fall on insect populations remains uncertain.

“Extended warm periods could allow certain insects to squeeze in additional reproductive cycles,” says Liesch. “While some insects, like aphids, can continuously reproduce generation after generation, others may attempt a second generation if conditions permit.”.

Furthermore, mild winters may facilitate range expansions for certain insect species, potentially pushing them farther north into Wisconsin.

While the recent weather fluctuations, from warm spells to cold snaps, may seem concerning, experts believe that most insects are resilient to such variations.

“Many of our insects are cold-hardy and can withstand fluctuating temperatures,” says Liesch. “While extreme weather events could impact insect populations, early-season fluctuations are generally well-tolerated by insects.”

As for tick activity, the recent warm temperatures have led to increased tick activity earlier in the year than usual. Deer ticks and American dog ticks, common in Wisconsin, can become active once temperatures consistently rise above freezing.

“Ticks can be active any time of the year once temperatures are warm enough,” Liesch explained. “While tick activity typically peaks in spring months like April and May, recent temperatures have prompted some tick samples to be collected.”

Additionally, Wisconsin residents can anticipate a notable event in the insect world this year – the emergence of periodical 17-year cicadas. Scheduled to emerge after spending 17 years underground, these cicadas may appear earlier than expected if spring temperatures remain warm.

“Like a box of chocolates, you never quite know what you’re going to get with insects,” says Liesch. “While some trends may emerge, surprises are always possible. It’s essential to stay tuned and observe nature’s cues as the season progresses.”

As Wisconsinites prepare for outdoor activities, including gardening and fieldwork, vigilance and awareness of insect activity remain key.