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Unseasonable Warmth Making Pests Less Predictable, More Present

Graph of seasonal temperatures
In central Virginia, average winter temperatures have increased 3.7 degrees since 1970. (Photo: Climate Central)

Average winter temperatures in Richmond have trended up by nearly 4 degrees since 1970, according to government data. That’s one sign of many that Virginia’s winters are becoming milder. 

Katlyn Catron is a Virginia Tech doctoral student working towards her entomology degree. Catron’s main research focus is vegetable pests.

She said warmer weather changes usual pest cycles - and the results are often unpredictable.

“That is difficult for growers and farmers to accommodate,” Catron said.

This challenge comes on top of all of the other adaptations farmers have to make for a changing climate.

Catron said that unseasonably warm weather can actually bring bugs out of their wintertime dormant state, something that isn’t “really great for anyone involved.”

Those insects leaving dormancy often can’t find enough food to survive in the winter. 

People may notice something bugging them as well.

“There are likely going to be insect and arthropod pests that will also be taking advantage of those temperatures in order to get to us,” Catron said.

On warmer winter days, she says you should pack the bug spray and make sure your pets are caught up on their flea and tick medication

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Patrick Larsen is VPM News' environment and energy reporter, and fill-in host.
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