Looking for a silver lining to subzero temperatures? Boy do we have news for you

Credit: Lisa Powell

Credit: Lisa Powell

Perhaps like you, we like to look on the sunny side of things even when the meteorologists use words like “subzero” and “advisory” and phrases like “polar vortex” and “bitterly cold.”

>> Wind Chill Warning in effect for bitterly cold conditions

We imagined tiny ice daggers smashing into the hearts of mosquitoes and pollen and spores just evaporating in the freezing cold air.

WHIO Storm Center 7 Chief Meteorologist McCall Vrydaghs says a polar vortex will sink temperatures for the next few days. This morning, wind chills have been below zero in most parts of the region.

>> RELATED:  Wind chills could reach 40-below, warming centers open around area

There has to be a silver lining to dangerously cold weather forecasters say will  smack the Miami Valley the next few days.

Doesn’t there?

>> RELATED: Wind chills explained: How they are calculated, advisories, and tips to stay safe

We had some high hopes when we spoke to Suzanne Mills-Wasniak, extension educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources at the OSU Extension Montgomery County.

“This is really the first time we have had in a couple of years that we really have had a cold snap that would put some pressure on some of the insects over winter,” she said.

But Mills-Wasniak said the cold weather’s impact on bugs wasn’t her area of specialty and she could not answer with any authority.

She instead sent us a few helpful links, including a truly fascinating article from Erin Hodgson of Iowa State University on how many bugs in the northern hemisphere produce a substance that acts like an antifreeze and others get rid of all their food and water in their bodies and enter a "dry" hibernation.

Mills-Wasniak connected us to two colleagues: Jason Cervenec and Aaron Wilson at Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center at Ohio State University.

Cervenec said the area was more of Wilson’s specialty.

Wilson, a climate specialist, couldn’t offer a silver lining, but he did offer a flip side after noting that the projected weather will be far more challenging than it could ever be beneficial.

“I don’t think we usually think of weather being a benefit or detrimental to itself,” he said. “On the flip side, we are going to warm up pretty rapidly.”

>> RELATED: School closings and delays in Dayton and surrounding communities 

Wilson referred us to his colleague Kelly J. Tilmon, an associate professor and State Extension Specialist Field Crops Entomology

Tilmon didn’t have a silver lining to offer, just some cold facts.

In an email exchange she wrote:

“My overall take on cold weather insect kills in agriculture is that it doesn’t usually have as much effect as we hope it might, because the insects protect themselves so well and our ultra-cold snaps are usually fairly short. Also, snow cover is a big help for overwintering insects, providing a surprising degree of insulation from temperature extremes. I worked at South Dakota State University for 10 years before coming to Ohio State and temperatures there are far colder for far longer than here, and we always had plenty of field crop pests each year. That said, there are a few species that are more susceptible to cold snaps than others. One example is Mexican bean beetle, of which we had unusual outbreaks in Ohio soybeans this summer. This cold snap might knock them back a bit. 

Pests that live in houses (roaches etc.) will be unaffected. Even if the house becomes cooler than normal, it is still warm enough to keep these unwelcome guests comfortable, unfortunately.”

>> Here are 16 tips for keeping you, your pets and home safe in the cold

Tilmon said she couldn’t speak directly to what happens to pest-like ticks and mosquitoes.

For that we turned to Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County spokesman Dan Suffolletto, who essentially  froze our high hopes solid.

After conferring with his agency’s mosquito experts, Suffolletto confirmed that there is not a benefit to subzero temperatures with it comes to pollen or the populations of mosquitoes and ticks.

“Mosquitoes are already dormant in the winter. They go dormant with the first frost,” he said. “Tree pollen is already reduced.”

We really wanted a silver lining with these subzero temperatures, but Suffolletto said the dangers of cold temperatures for elderly neighbors who may be in need to the risk of pipes bursting are the reality.

“People need to protect themselves from frostbite, cover themselves when it is cold,” he said.

Sorry, guys. 😔

About the Author