In the Midwest, gardeners are generally an optimistic lot. If consistent heavy rainfall is the topic of conversation, a typical response is, “At least the weeds are easy to pull!” Unbearable summer heat and humidity? “The corn is really growing! My tomatoes are going crazy.” During the depths of the polar vortex that swept through the Midwest in late January 2019, I remember waking to temperatures of –27°F and thinking, “Well, at least this must be killing some bugs off.” However, after repeated mosquito bites and sighting my first Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica), it was apparent that my dreams of a bug-free summer were not reflected in reality. PJ Liesch, director of the Insect Diagnostic Lab at the University of Wisconsin, helped me interpret how recent Midwestern weather trends may (or unfortunately, may not) have affected populations of our favorite insect pests.
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