Forester says cold weather probably won't stop the bugs

Linda Gallagher, Contributing Writer

Courtesy photo

Although information from the U.S. Forest Service has suggested that very cold weather has a detrimental effect on the invasive Emerald ash borer, it's unlikely that the short period of extremely cold temperatures experienced last week by Antrim and Kalkaska counties was enough to wipe out the exotic insect (shown above), according to local forester Mike Meriwether. The insect invasion has killed millions of native ash trees in the state of Michigan over the last 10 years.


REGION – Although a rash of recent items posted on the Internet over the past few weeks have suggested that northern Michigan may have seen the last of the devastating Emerald ash borer (EAB) in native ash trees with the recent extremely cold weather, that's not likely according to Antrim Conservation District forester Mike Meriwether.

Meriwether said last week that he had not yet read the most recent information stemming from the U.S. Forest Service in Minnesota, which states that late January's extremely cold weather could kill millions of the bug and prevent further spread of the insect, but said he had read similar studies made several years ago.

"I doubt that this cold weather we've got now will be enough to have any kind of measurable effect in this region," stated Meriwether of the very low temperatures, when wind chills in both Antrim and Kalkaska counties sank as low as -25 degrees Fahrenheit during several nights between Monday, Jan. 28 and Friday, Feb. 1.

"If it lasted for a month, like it sometimes does in northern Wisconsin, northern Minnesota, northern Maine, and some areas of the Upper Peninsula, it might have an effect, but I doubt it will here," the forester said.

Further studies of the research – which says that like many insects, overwintering EAB larvae are able to survive in climates with subzero winter temperatures using the strategy of supercooling, or the ability to cool a liquid below its normal freezing point without ice formation – shows that, he pointed out.

To avoid freezing of their internal fluids, different insects produce a variety of specialized sugars, alcohols or antifreeze proteins during the winter months. These compounds allow insects to endure subzero body temperatures far below where their internal fluids would normally freeze. Once insects become seasonally acclimated to the cold, temperatures below this supercooling point are required for long periods of time before significant portions of a population begin to die.

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