The BIG beetle question right now - Did THIS cold snap kill off a lot of mountain pine beetles in Montana?
In previous blog posts I covered how the beetle’s larvae ‘cold harden’ to survive winter and why the early cold snap this winter likely didn’t kill very many beetles. But, what happened this time?
Beetle larvae survive winter because they make antifreeze. Producing antifreeze is energetically expensive so larvae regulate its production. If temperatures remain cold, the beetles continue to maintain high levels. But if things warm up, levels of the antifreeze begin to slowly drop. And that means they can be vulnerable at warmer temperatures.
This cold snap may be different in its effects on the beetles than the previous one. Why? It got much colder and for a longer period. But, more importantly, it was preceded by a lengthy warm period in January with temperatures in many locations in Montana reaching as high as 50F. This long warm period may have allowed drop in antifreeze concentrations and a subsequent increase in susceptibility to cold.
So, has it killed a lot of beetles? I am going take a look tomorrow in the Phillipsburg and Georgetown Lake area. I’ll post what I find.