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Climate Change Is Making Insects Big Problems

According to the USDA Climate Change Resource Center “Forest insect populations are influenced by temperature and other environmental conditions, and so future changes in climate can be expected to affect forest insect outbreaks. In some cases, larger and more frequent insect outbreaks may occur…”As climate continues to change, we can expect more situations, particularly at the margins of tree ranges, where sub-optimal conditions for tree growth and reduced tree vigor can lead to outbreaks of forest insects. Hotter summers with more dry periods will be particularly problematic for northeastern US forests, because these conditions stress trees, which can increase survival and population growth of pests that specialize on weakened or dying trees.

As such, temperatures that are higher than average create a spike in insect growth, reproduction, and development. Rising temperatures also cause insect metabolism to speed up. As they burn more energy, they must eat more (hence the rising number of crop losses).Some insects that we usually tend to ignore like flies are going to become a major health problem if we don’t take decisive action. In the coming year, cities may see an uptick in fly activity. The cause: heated trash, warmer winters, and more rainfall. In addition to being a huge nuisance, flies are known for carrying food-borne diseases, which is why any increase in fly activity warrants immediate action.

Sadly for the most part insect populations that do the most good are starting to decline, like butterflies and, honeybees, Yet while these are on the decline An increase in temperature, rainfall, and humidity may cause a proliferation of the malaria-carrying mosquitoes at higher altitudes, resulting in an increase in malaria transmission in areas in which it was not reported earlier. An invasive, palm-sized spider from Asia is spreading up the East Coast this year. Move over stink bugs, lantern flies and lady beetles: another invasive species from Asia has arrived in the United States. It's the Joro spider which made its first U.S. appearance in Georgia in 2013.

The European fire ant is a growing problem across the East coast extending from Canada and Maine all the way to Massachusetts. The European or ruby fire ant is a very small, reddish, aggressive ant that can bite and sting a person or pet multiple times. It is part of the same sub-family) as the notorious true fire ant that causes serious problems and is endemic to the southern United States. In Canada, European fire ants have been detected in almost all States in the Northeast and are considered an invasive species of concern. Fire ants inflict painful stings and could restrict everyday activities such as barbeques, picnics and sporting events.

Browntail moth caterpillars have small hairs that can cause a poison ivy-like rash and difficulty breathing in humans; these hairs remain toxic for up to three years! Warmer temperatures are likely causing an increase in the invasive browntail moth populations. Browntail moths were introduced in 1897 from Europe to Massachusetts, they quickly spread throughout the northeast. David Wagner, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Connecticut told the Associated Press “Climate change appears to be an important driver in this system…So this outbreak will continue to increase, and could come at great expense to landowners.”


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