Warmer weather means more insect activity

Humans aren't the only ones going stir crazy after the winter months; we can expect to see more insect activity as temperatures warm.

Can anyone honestly say they are a fan of the emerging insects? They can be pesky, scary, and sometimes dangerous (depending on the species). One person who knows the importance of insects is Dr. Tom Clark, a biology professor at Indiana University South Bend. He specializes in entomology.

"There's already going to be insects appearing," Clark says about this month. "You'll see stinkbugs, Asian lady beetles, and certain butterflies.... the winter stoneflies are out; they're along the river here in South Bend."

Insects don't follow a strict timeline based on days or months. They appear based on temperatures and their surroundings.

"When we start seeing flowers, we should start to see things that pollinate the flowers," Clark said.

We are already seeing signs of a few flowers in Michiana, but will get even more in the following weeks. Isn't it still too cool to see pollinators like bees? You might be surprised at the temperatures they can withstand.

"Some of the fuzzy bees are able to...maintain a warm body temperature, even when it's fairly cool out," he said. "They can be out foraging with temperatures in the 40s."

Don't be scared if you see bees while you're doing your spring cleaning. Most of the time, as long as you leave them alone, they'll also leave you alone. It is important to let them do their jobs properly.

"Most insects are harmless to humans, and in fact, play enormously beneficial roles in nature," Clark explains. "We're actually having a kind of crisis right now where insect numbers are dropping pretty rapidly."

Crisis is a big word for a small creature. Although physically tiny, bugs play an important part in the food chain. Insects are food for birds and fish. Without insects, birds could collapse, and this could continue down the line.

Why are their numbers dropping? This might also surprise you - many insects cannot survive in residential areas. Lawns filled with non-native plants and shrubbery aren't great for our insect friends. They can't eat a lot of these plants.

"It's like a wasteland for insects, and therefore a wasteland for birds," Clark explains.

The best way you can support them is by planting native plant species in your yard. Clark calls this movement the homegrown national park. You can even participate if you don't have a yard. Bee diversity in downtown Chicago is surprisingly better than in suburbs or outlying farm areas. This is because people grow a wider variety of plants (including native species) on their balconies that support bees.

It goes to show that one person can make an impact on insect populations.

"You're not alone," Clark reminded. "If other people are doing it too, you start to change things in a significant way."



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