Flying the Not-So-Friendly Skies
Insects in warm climates have a variety of strategies for bad weather, including hiding from the downpour, increasing activity during heat waves, or even using the bad weather to proliferate their species. Heat waves are known to cause cockroaches to spread their wings to reach their destinations faster. “Cockroaches, like all insects, are cold-blooded, meaning their activity rate increases with temperature,” said Jules Silverman, an entomologist and professor at North Carolina State University, in an interview with Live Science. (Cold-blooded creatures are ectothermic, which means they depend on external heat to keep their bodies warm.) This also means that the species of cockroach that are able to fly (and most of them are capable) are probably more likely to do so in warmer places, said Silverman. If you think that flying cockroaches are especially horrific, you probably live somewhere with a colder climate and a denser human population. Flying cockroaches in the subways of New York have garnered some headlines, but “flight of the cockroach” is not so common up north, said Michael Bentley, staff entomologist for the National Pest Management Association. People in the southern states are likely to miss what all of the fuss is about. “Down in Florida, they fly a lot more,” Bentley told Live Science. “They have to cover a greater distance to find food.”
In the midst of a hot and sticky summer, a good thunderstorm brings much-needed relief from the sweltering heat, as well as from the swarming bugs… or so you hope. Humans react to precipitation in a number of ways: umbrellas, waterproof clothing, and staying indoors or under cover, but most other creatures on the planet don’t have those sorts of luxuries. In particular, there are hundreds of billions of insects on this planet, many of which are of the winged variety that must occasionally deal with falling droplets of death from above.
Getting In Out of the Rain
Being tiny, agile and able to fly are the normal advantages of insects, but in the case of inclement weather, such as a storm or cold weather, those same characteristics don’t reap the same rewards. Insects are ectothermic, meaning that the temperature of their small bodies reacts to the outside surroundings. When the weather is cold, the metabolism of insects slows down, as do their activity levels; on the other hand, in warm temperatures, insects are energized and highly active.
When an insect is wet, they also take on additional weight, which can make it difficult to fly. Water can also cause their wings to stick together in some cases. Combined with lower energy levels in the case of damp or cold weather, this can make insects vulnerable and less agile. High winds that are often present during storms will also make it more difficult to fly and remain on track. The strong exoskeleton of most insects provide protection, but it is has to be an exhausting process. Raindrops fall with an average speed of 10 mph, generating a huge amount of impact on most bugs with potentially lethal consequences.
Taking Cover vs Taking Advantage
Given the risks involved in the case of wind and rain, many insects do the logical thing and seek shelter. A multitude of insect species are sensitive to changes in air pressure, allowing them to predict when rain or bad weather is going to strike. In anticipation of bad weather, bugs look for shelter by burrowing into logs or underground, or taking a respite underneath leaves, undergrowth, rocks, as well as under the eaves of buildings or any place accessible in your home that provides a convenient place to take shelter.
However, this isn’t the case for all bugs, as some are better equipped to withstand the harsh winds and violent impacts from raindrops. Larger bugs, e.g., beetles and dragonflies, are hardier and more capable of withstanding the impact of raindrops, and have greater control over their flight patterns in the wind.
Annoyingly, mosquitoes also seem uniquely capable of surviving downpours of rain, despite their minuscule size and weight. Research has shown that rather than resisting the impact, a mosquito will “ride the wave, “so to speak, and may plummet a few dozen feet before escaping out from beneath the raindrop. Uniquely, water-resistant hairs covering their bodies repel the water, allowing the mosquito to slide out from under the drop and continue on its flight towards the nearest blood-filled creature. While being constantly bombarded and plunged towards the ground may seem frustrating, with so many other bugs hiding or biding their time, mosquitoes can take advantage of a cleared playing field in their search for food.
Sending a Signal It’s Time for Love
For other bugs, seasonal rains are an indicator that it is time to mate. In the case of leaf cutter ants, once spring and summer rains have slowed or stopped, the females release pheromones to attract a mate. Males emerge from the ground after the rain and are drawn towards the scent and the reproductive cycle begins.
Sources: Live Science /PNAS / JSTOR / ScienceDirect / ScienceABC
We’ll Protect Your Home Rain or Shine
At Patrick Exterminating, we create an insect-proof barrier around your home, blocking insects from taking shelter all year long, whether it’s storming or not. If you’re seeing an increase in insect activity during and after heavy summer rains, give us a call at 772-286-6812, or go to our Contact Page to set up a no-obligation home pest inspection. We’ll keep the bugs away, rain or shine!
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