Insects ‘Could Thrive’ After Cold Spell as Predators Struggle to Survive

COLD weather could be good for county insects, say wildlife experts.

A red-eyed damselfly.

While many species of birds and beasts are struggling as temperatures plunge, wildlife experts believe the relentlessly cold conditions could be better for butterflies, moths and other invertebrates than recent, more variable winters.

Matt Shardlow, chief executive of Buglife – The Invertebrate Conservation Trust, said while it was a bit early to be say for definite, the cold should not have harmed insects, and in fact may have helped keep predators and disease away.

He said: “In itself the cold shouldn’t necessarily cause a problem, so long as a species has a strategy to deal with it – which really any species in the northern hemisphere should have.

“Butterflies and moths lay their eggs out in the open on twigs, but they can survive down to minus 30C – and a lot of other insects are fine down to minus 20C.

“And creatures such as small red-eyed damselflies lay their eggs inside the leaves and stems of plants which contain sort a of ‘natural anti-freeze’.

“The bigger problem comes when warmer spells punctuate the cold, as that can allow predators or fungus to attack insects and their eggs.

“So continued cold weather could actually be a positive thing for insects.”

But a spokesman for the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, Rachel Shaw, said the picture was not as rosy for the county’s feathered inhabitants.

She said: “Last month was the coldest December documented in the UK since nationwide records began 100 years ago and the first time that the average temperature has been below zero.

“With these unusually low temperatures, a covering of snow, frozen ground and iced-over lakes for a prolonged period, survival will have been tough for many species.

“Those particularly at risk include small, insect-eating birds such as wrens and robins, fish-eating birds such as kingfishers and bitterns, and waders that use their long beaks to probe mud for their prey.”

Lincoln’s Weirfield Wildlife Hospital have also reported increased numbers of swans and hedgehogs being brought to them in recent weeks – though no overall increase in the types of animals being treated.

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