By Mary Hightower, U of A System Division of Agriculture
Loftin: Imported fire ants, of tropical origin, may see population shrink temporarily
Thrash: Redbanded, southern green stinkbugs likely affected by cold
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — A week of record-low temperatures may leave its mark on Arkansas’ fire ant populations, but don’t look for the cold to have reduced fly or tick numbers, Kelly Loftin, extension entomologist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said Friday.
FIRE ANTS — The extreme cold of the winter of 2021 may make a dent in fire ant populations in Arkansas. File photo taken January 2014 in Pulaski County. (U of A System Division of Agriculture photo by Mary Hightower)
In general, Loftin said that “insects that are endemic to our region have evolved various mechanisms to survive cold winters.” However, invasives that originate from warmer climates don’t have those means for survival.
Fire ants and freezing weather
“Imported fire ants are a good example of an exotic species that can be adversely impacted by extreme cold temperatures,” he said. “This pest ant has expanded its range about as far north as it can under normal winter conditions. And north Arkansas is the northern limit of its range.
“Although imported fire ants are native to South America, they survive most Arkansas winters,” Loftin said. “However sustained cold can cause a temporary population reduction.”
He said that a decade ago, when parts of the state sustained seven days below freezing, “Arkansas’ fire ant population experienced a 70 percent reduction in the number of fire ant colonies.” he said.
But you can’t keep fire ants down for long.
“About 1.5 years later, fire ants returned to the prior population level,” he said. “Fire ant colonies associated with sidewalks, parking lots, foundations, and other areas tend to survive simply because these structures serve as heat sumps thus preventing colonies from freezing.”
Ticks are pretty good at finding protected places to ride out the freezing weather.
“Species such as the American dog tick and lone star tick survive the winter by seeking shelter as adults and nymphs in the leaf litter,” Loftin said. “Other species such as the winter tick are attached to a warm host during the cold winter.”
“If you look at the geographical range of the American dog tick, black-legged tick and winter tick, all three survive up to the Canadian border and beyond,” he said. “Even the lone star tick survives up to the Great Lakes region.”
Loftin said temperatures will influence when ticks become active.
“For example, if we have a warm spring, we will see active ticks in March or April,” he said. “And during warm spells during winter months you may see an occasional active lone star or American dog tick in January or February. Likewise if temperature remain cold in the spring, ticks will not become active as early.”
Don’t count on a week of freezing temperatures to knock out flies.
“The house fly range is worldwide including the Arctic, so obviously we wouldn’t expect to see much winter mortality,” Lofton said, adding that “our most important livestock flies have different mechanisms to survive cold winters.
House flies and horn flies of cattle survive cold temperatures as larva or pupae under manure piles and other protected breeding material.
The face fly a pest with a different overwintering strategy as a hibernating adult. Introduced from Europe into Nova Scotia, Canada, about 1950, face flies hibernate in church steeples, attics, barns and other protected areas.
“I routinely see hibernating face flies on warm days in manmade structures,” Loftin said. “Many times they are numerous enough to become household pests.”
Row crop pests
The effects of the deep freeze are uncertain, said Ben Thrash, extension entomologist for the Division of Agriculture.
“We can safely say the redbanded stink bugs and southern green stink bugs will be knocked back for the next several years,” he said. “I think many our native species will be relatively unaffected.”
However, the cold’s effects on insects that migrate to Arkansas isn’t known yet.
“Insects like corn earworm and fall armyworms do overwinter here Arkansas, the cold should have killed them here, but many of our most damaging corn earworm populations migrate from places like the lower Rio Grande Valley in Texas and south Louisiana,” Thrash said. “I’d bet we will still see these insects, but they may just be delayed in getting here.”
“I would like to put some data together sometime to see if there are any trends I can pick out with weather and certain species,” he said. “Other things like how wet our spring is can also have major effects on our insect populations by promoting weed growth.”
Thrash recalled something former Arkansas soybean breeder Chuck Caviness said when asked to predict a field’s soybean field. Caviness declared “Only fools and newcomers try to predict soybean yield, and I’m neither.”
Thrash said, “I’m beginning to feel the same way about predicting insect numbers.”
WASHINGTON, Feb. 17, 2021- TheU.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)reminds rural communities, farmers and ranchers, families and small businesses affected by the recent winter storms that USDA has programs that provide assistance. USDA staff in the regional, state and county offices are prepared with a variety of program flexibilities and other assistance to residents, agricultural producers and impacted communities.
"USDA is committed to getting help to producers and rural Americans impacted by the severe weather in many parts of the country. As severe weather and natural disasters continue to threaten the livelihoods of thousands of our farming families, we want you and your communities to know that USDA stands with you,” said Kevin Shea, acting Secretary of Agriculture. “Visit farmers.gov or your local USDA Service Center to inquire about assistance."
Risk management and disaster assistance for agricultural operations:
USDA offers several risk management and disaster assistance options to help producers recover after they are impacted by severe weather, including those impacted by winter storms and extreme cold.
Even before disasters strike, USDA provides tools for producers to manage their risk through theFederal Crop Insurance Program, a public-private partnership between USDA’s Risk Management Agency and private companies and agents. For crops that do not have crop insurance available, theNoninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP)is available through the local Farm Service Agency. This risk protection includes crop production loss and tree loss for certain crop insurance products. It is recommended that producers reach out to their crop insurance agent or local FSA office for more information.
Producers that signed up for Federal Crop Insurance or NAP who suffer losses are asked to report crop damage to their crop insurance agent or local FSA office, respectively, within 72 hours of damage discovery and follow up in writing within 15 days.
Livestock and perennial crop producers often have more limited risk management options available, so there are several disaster programs for them. Key programs include:
The Tree Assistance Program provides cost share assistance to rehabilitate or replant and clean-up damage to orchards and vineyards that kill or damage the tree, vines or shrubs. NAP or Federal Crop Insurance often only covers the crop and not the plant.
USDA reminds producers that it’s critical to keep accurate records to document the losses and illnesses following this devastating cold weather event. Livestock producers are advised to document beginning livestock numbers by taking photos or videos of any losses.
Other common documentation options include:
Bank or other loan documents
Additionally, USDA can provide financial resources through itsEnvironmental Quality Incentives Programto help with immediate needs and long-term support to help recover from natural disasters and conserve water resources. Assistance may also be available for emergency animal mortality disposal from natural disasters and other causes.
The Farm Service Agency (FSA) also has a variety of loans available including emergency loans that are triggered by disaster declarations and operating loans that can assist producers with credit needs.
Ensure food safety:
USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is helping ensure affected households and communities are taking the proper steps to reduce the risk of foodborne illness during severe weather and power outages. Food safety tips for before, during and after a weather emergency are availableon the FSIS website.
During a power outage, a refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened, and a full freezer will hold a safe temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full and the door remains closed). During a snowstorm, do not place perishable food out in the snow. Outside temperatures can vary and food can be exposed to unsanitary conditions and animals.
Care for livestock and pets:
USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is helping to meet the emergency needs of pets and their owners, as inspectors coordinate closely with zoos, breeders and other licensed facilities to ensure animals in their care remain safe.
APHIS has additional staff on stand-by to provide support should the situation escalate in severity or the number of affected livestock operations increase. Should it be necessary, APHIS has the expertise to assist with carcass removal and disposal as well.
APHIS’ Animal Care (AC) program is also prepared to respond. The Animal Care Program oversees the welfare of certain animals that are exhibited to the public, bred for commercial sale and used in medical research. In addition to providing technical assistance to regulated facilities, AC inspectors may be checking affected facilities to assess damage and ensure the welfare of their animals.
For more information about APHIS’ response efforts and how to protect pets and service animals in disasters, follow APHIS on Twitter at@USDA_APHIS.
Helping individuals recover:
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) works with state, local and nongovernmental organizations to provideemergency nutrition assistance, including food packages and infant formula, to households, shelters and mass feeding sites serving people in need. FNS also provides emergency flexibilities in administering nutrition assistance programs at the request of states and works with local authorities to provide benefits. Emergency nutrition assistance and flexibilities requested by states and approved by FNS are posted to theFNS Disaster Assistance website.