Does a warm winter mean increased insect pressure?

Katelyn Miller, Field Crops and Forage Specialist
Southwest New York Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops Program

June 17, 2024

According to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), December through February was the Lower 48's warmest winter recorded in 129 years. This winter topped the previous record from 2015-16 by 0.82 degrees Fahrenheit. New York was one of eight states that experienced the warmest winter on record, causing issues with maintaining snow cover and ice cover on Lake Erie. Additionally, the average snowfall in February was the smallest snow cover we have experienced in 20 years. Many knew, even without this data, that this winter was abnormal in temperature and snowfall; so how could that impact insect pressure this growing season?

In the Northeast, insects survive most commonly through migration and overwintering strategies. Insects such as potato leaf hopper rely on migration as they typically cannot survive winters in the Northeast. Other insects like alfalfa weevil take shelter in the field. Adults will remain dormant in alfalfa fields or sheltered grassy areas where snow will serve as insulation. White grub species like June beetles will overwinter in the soil where temperatures remain above air temperature. While these are just some examples of pests and their overwintering strategies, there are some factors that may impact the survival of insects:

  • Large temperature swings can be detrimental to insects. An insect may become active when they would normally be dormant, and this can cause mortality if there is not enough food.
  • Above-ground overwintering insects may be more likely to survive with fewer cold days. On the flip side, a lack of snow could expose insects to below freezing temperatures.
  • A mild winter will likely not have a detrimental effect on insects that overwinter in the soil because of consistent soil temperatures.

It's important to remember that all these principles apply to beneficial insects as well, which could be positive. So back to our original question; does a warm winter mean increased pest pressure? Time will only tell. While it's uncertain how this weather will truly impact pest pressure, it's important to be prepared. Pest scouting as part of an integrated management plan will help you make economical pest control decisions. 

Field Crops

Field Crops









Upcoming Events

2024 Aurora Farm Field Day

Event Offers DEC Credits

August 1, 2024
Aurora, NY

The annual Cornell Field Crop Research Field Day will be Thursday, August 1 at the Musgrave Research Farm, Aurora, N.Y. The program features walking and hay wagon tours in the morning and afternoon. 

View 2024 Aurora Farm Field Day Details

2024 Broiler Field Day at Laughing Earth Farm

August 19, 2024 : 2024 Broiler Field Day at Laughing Earth Farm
Cropseyville, NY

Join us for a free field day to explore broiler production, processing, and finances. Zack and Annie Metzger will be our hosts. They have run this 200 year-old small diversified farm for 8 years. They process their poultry in a 20C kitchen, where they produce value-added products like sausage and dehydrated chicken feet.

View 2024 Broiler Field Day at Laughing Earth Farm Details

2024 Broiler Field Day at Majestic Farm

August 20, 2024 : 2024 Broiler Field Day at Majestic Farm
Mountaindale, NY

Join us for a free field day to explore broiler production, processing, and finances. Brett and Sara Budde will be our hosts. They raise slow-growth organic broilers on their diversified farm in large flocks on woodland pasture. Their birds are processed into whole birds, parts, and chicken sausage.

View 2024 Broiler Field Day at Majestic Farm Details


No announcements at this time.