While harsh winters can put a damper on insect pest populations, how insects will respond in the spring of 2011 is a little tougher to predict.
Despite record snowfalls and low temperatures in the northern parts of the state, "there's no guarantee that those conditions will mean fewer pests this spring," said John Hopkins, extension urban entomologist for the University of Arkansas, Division of Agriculture.
"There is evidence that cold will take its toll," he said. "For example, weather conditions during the winter of 2000-2001 caused a drop in fire ant pressure in Arkansas during the summer of 2001; however, the population soon recovered to its more annoying levels during the following years.
"It also appears that last year's fire ant populations in some parts of the state were depressed after conditions experienced during the 2009-2010 winter," Hopkins said.
"The trick is for the weather to be cold enough for a long enough period of time," he said, adding that snow is a complicating factor where low temperatures are concerned.
"The snow acts as an insulating blanket, preventing soil surface temperatures from dipping as low as air temperatures," allowing insects to survive, Hopkins said.
Another factor that influences the survival of insects through the winter is rapid temperature and humidity fluctuation.
"An extended warm spell may fool some insects into emerging from a protected overwintering site early, only to face lethal cold temperatures when Arkansas weather changes and a cold snap comes along and kills the early risers," he said.
"This year, it hasn't really been cold enough for long enough in some parts of the state to result in a dramatic kill-off of overwintering insect pests," Hopkins said. "But, we will just have to wait and see how things turn out this coming year."
This month, Arkansans saw extreme swings from below zero and snow to 70 degrees and mud within days.