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Boreal Community Media

There’s a sweet side to the bitter cold

Feb 26, 2019 06:33AM ● By Editor

Photo:  Ronald Mondra/Parade


By Fritz Busch from the New Ulm Journal - February 26, 2019


The recent extreme cold snap has a silver lining in that it tends to kill nasty bugs like emerald ash borers (EAB), gypsy moths and wooly adelgids. 

Plus the thicker ice cold weather creates should take longer to melt in the spring and helps keep lake water cooler longer and aids fish and bugs that evolved to thrive in cooler water.

An invasive forest insect, tiny EABs that can fit inside a penny, infest and kill weak or healthy ash trees. Cold weather may help slow the spread and survival of EAB, but won’t stop it totally, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

If EAB kills large numbers of ash trees, the concern is that forest habitat, often in wet areas, may change to grass, cattails and shrubs, threatening the plants and animals that rely on black ash and forest habitats.

After the unusually cold winter of 2014, the U.S. Forest Service sampled Twin Cities ash trees and reported that the extended period of minus 20-degree F. temperatures killed off 60 to 70 percent of ash borers. 

The Forest Service reported that minus 30 degree temperatures for any length of time will kill nearly all ash borers subjected to those temperatures.

Gypsy moths are invasive forest pests that are one of the most damaging tree defoliators in the United States. Aspen and oak lead the list of more than 500 preferred host species. They are voracious eaters and can completely defoliate a tree.

Hemlock wooly adelgibs are tiny, aphid-like insects that ravage hemlock trees. The tiny reddish-brown, crawling insects almost look like pepper sprinkled on hemlock stems. 

In addition to cooler, cleaner lake water from cold weather, Lake Superior’s cold, deep water rely on two other ice cover benefits — it reflects solar radiation, preventing more heating, and reduces evaporation water loss, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

In the interest of cleaner air, the U.S. Department of Energy says most vehicle manufacturers recommend driving off gently after about 30 seconds of engine idling in the winter. 

Vehicles are a major contributor to poor air quality in urban areas, with more than 100 harmful compounds in car exhaust, according to the MPCA. In addition, it recommends turning off vehicles when stopped for more than 10 seconds. After that amount of time, it takes more gas to idle than it does to restart the engine.

For more winter driving tips, visit https://www.pca.state.mn.us/winter-driving.

To learn more about invasive species in your area, visit https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/invasives/terrestrialanimals/.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at [email protected]

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