Bugs crawl through warm winter, early spring

March 19, 2012 2:28:02 PM PDT
Unseasonably warm temperatures are causing May flowers to bloom a lot sooner, and they are bringing in a batch of bugs earlier than usual.

The record-breaking conditions began last week and we haven't seen the last of them. It feels like spring has sprung early, bringing some big changes with it.

"I kind of like turning around the rocks in the spring and seeing what bugs are crawling around," said Laura Goldstein. "And I'm seeing bugs that are not sluggish. I'm seeing very active bugs."

Goldstein's bugs were active Monday as she pulled weeds in her Lincolnwood front yard. It seems this year's warm winter could mean a buggy spring.

"If the weather conditions stay warm, then we can just expect a higher insect population and then probably some of our pesky insects, seeing them a little earlier than most years," said Tom Tiddens, insect expert, Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe.

Tiddens explains that because the ground only froze down to four inches in the Chicago area lots of bugs that usually die did not.

"The trend looks like we're going to have a really insecty year, but Mother Nature has a lot of checks and balances, so I don't get too concerned about it," said Tiddens. "We just need to get out and keep an eye on our plants and watch the plants closely."

On the positive side, the warm temperatures are also bringing out a lot more flowers than usual. This past record-shattering weekend brought out an explosion of blooms.

"Everything is blooming," said Phyllis Russell. "I moved here in 1987 and I've just never seen it."

There is so much in bloom at the gardens, in fact, that nearly 8,000 people visited on Sunday alone.

"We roll the dice with Mother Nature and we don't really control what comes up," said Boyce Tankersley of the Chicago Botanic Garden. "So enjoy what we have now. The next seven to 10 day forecast looks like the weather remains the same. All crocus, daffodils, crabapples, magnolias should have a chance to flower spectacularly before we have to worry about a freeze."

Experts say a freeze could affect fruit trees and roses, which are already starting to bud. If those buds are damaged, they may not grow back.