It turns out there might have been an upside to this whole polar vortex business: a bunch of invasive insect species might have died.
Last month, the American midwest (and even part of the east) were gripped in a deadly cold. It was called the “polar vortex” due to the fact it was literally air from the Arctic circle that came down from the North Pole to slam into populated urban centers with a vengeance.
Chicago got down to -23 degrees Fahrenheit, which is colder than some parts of the Antarctic. They were lighting railroads on fire in order to do maintenance and even had people rounding up the homeless so they didn’t freeze to death.
Even still, the polar vortex caused many transportation disruptions, power outages, and even deaths.
But there may be a silver lining. The extreme cold might have cold a whole bunch of invasive insect species too.
A 2014 study by researchers at Virginia Tech University found that after a particularly long cold period in January of that year, 95% of stinkbugs they'd been studying perished. The insects are known as the brown marmorated stink bug, an invasive species from Asia that has become established in North America.
However, as these stinkbugs weren't used to the extreme cold possible in certain part of North America, a prolonged cold snap killed them. At least, the ones that hadn't found shelter in somebody's home.
Which is part of the problem when it comes to bugs. Things like bedbugs and cockroaches tend to spend most of their time indoors where it’s warm and cozy, and so they survive the polar vortex just fine. Other insect species that are native to North America enter a sort of dormancy where some can survive temperatures as low as -30 F.
“While most insects will be equipped to survive a short period of very cold weather, like the recent polar vortex, it’s likely some will die from this extreme weather event,” said Dr. Brittany Campbell, an entomologist with the NPMA.
Of course, we won’t know how well the insect populations have been depleted until the spring thaw. But we might not want all the bugs to die off either--bugs are important food sources and pollinators, and without them, the human race would be in a lot of trouble.