Cold weather mitigates springtime stink bugs

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (WJLA) - There is a possible up side to this brutally cold winter. Come spring, there could be fewer pests around -- specifically, stink bugs. Their population is being hit hard by our plummeting temperatures.

Professor Mike Raupp, the University of Maryland's beloved "bug guy," says the punishing blasts of artic air have left critters bugging out.

"Unfortunately I think that the stink is here to stay,” he said with a chuckle. “The Polar Vortex won't change the stink, but hopefully it'll put the beatdown on some of their numbers."

Research shows the extreme cold already has already taken a toll on a stink bug’s lifespan. One of Raupp’s colleagues at Virginia Tech gathered stink bugs in the fall and then placed them inside insulated buckets under an outdoor shelter in the winter. The kill rate may have been as high as 95 percent in that experiment. Raupp says other data indicates the kill rate is more in the range of 50 percent.

Raupp says don't celebrate just yet, but he is cautiously optimistic of what these experiments mean for those who suffer big time from spring's pesky problem:

“Any relief we can get from Mother Nature really is going to be a boon to our apple growers, our peach growers [and] the people who have been most affected by these pests."

Stink bugs are native to Asia and only began invading America about two decades ago so it's still too soon to tell if stink bugs will outsmart Mother Nature.

“How well they survive is going to depend on how clever they are in finding the right protected location,” said Raupp. “If they found the right location like my attic, they're probably going to do just fine."

Stink bugs do have a good shot at surviving. Insects that live in temperate areas have evolved over time. Raupp says they can produce antifreeze like compounds in their blood that can protect them from the bitter cold.