Cold Winter Killing NYC Pests (But Not Bed Bugs, Sorry)

March 4, 2014 | Stacey Delikat

This winter’s extreme cold temperatures have acted as a natural pest control for a variety of pests but according to entomologist Louis Sorkin the prolonged chilly temperatures this season have not affected NYC’s bed bug population at all.

It's March and Central Park is still in a deep freeze, but if you need a little silver lining during this drab and dreary winter, then consider this: the extreme cold temperatures could be cutting into the populations of some of our areas peskiest creepy crawlers.

The stink bug is one of the less welcome residents of the tri-state area. Not only is the invasive species a nuisance, but it can seriously damage crops and plants. And while they can survive in and in fact prefer, chilly temperatures, entomologist Louis Sorkin of the American Museum of Natural History says that this long and harsh winter could prove to be a form of pest control.

"Extremely cold temperatures, extended periods of time of cold temperatures will knock out a certain part of the population," Sorkin says.

Research students at Virginia Tech put about 2,500 brown marmorated stink bugs in buckets with insulated tubes and left them outside for the winter for later study. The professor says that in past years three-quarters of the bugs survive, but this year the extreme cold killed 95 percent of them.

The weather could also be killing members of other invasive species, like the emerald ash borer and the southern pine beetle, which has been attacking trees in New Jersey.

But Sorkin warns, any population dips will likely be only temporary.

"They usually rebound given years in the future when those temps aren't as bad," he says.

And of course, if insects like the stink bug are already inside your house don't count on them freezing to death.

As for cockroaches, scientists just discovered a new strain on the High Line that is apparently winter-proof.

So, will the polar vortex or the extreme cold impact the bed bug population of New York City?

"Not at all," Sorkin says.

The bottom line is that researchers say the polar vortex is unlikely to wipe out any species but they say it is possible it will at least keep some populations of the bugs in check.