One of the favorite comments I have heard this spring is "Can you remember a winter like the one we just had? Mild, very little snow and a March that was more like May." While our memories are sometimes short, I can't remember a winter as mild and snow-free as this last one. Given the number of winters I have experienced, there were probably one or two, but that was too long ago to remember.
It was good to be able to go out much of the time without heavy winter coats and boots. And few icy, slippery roads made travel a lot easier. Some folks commented that we don't need to go to Florida in a winter like this one.
Are there some problems that might result from this warm winter and spring? Some experts are saying that we can expect more insect pests to be out earlier to attack our plants, gardens and crops. These pesky insects can spread disease and damage crops, gardens and ornamentals. With the warmer weather goes earlier breeding, which means more generations of bugs to hatch this year.
On the positive side, the "good" insects that eat the "bad" ones will also have an earlier start. Homeowners and others can get frustrated with the swarms of Asian lady beetles that seem to come out of nowhere on warm spring days. But soybean aphids that can cause a lot of damage in soybean fields will probably face armies of lady bugs, parasitic wasps and lacewings that make a feast of these aphids.
Crop experts caution soybean growers to avoid spraying for aphids before they reach levels to be sure spraying is really needed. Let nature do the job if at all possible. Soybean aphids can reproduce in 72 hours, while predator insects take longer, so don't destroy them unless absolutely necessary.
Other beneficial insects, such as the praying mantis, need to be protected. This insect can gobble up a lot of other insects and are fun to observe. Some sources that say the female eats the male after mating are incorrect. Preying mantis are a favorite food source for bats, but they have developed a defense system. They have ultrasonic hearing, and when they hear the bat sounds, they collapse their wings and fall to the ground out of range of the bat.
Some of the garden pests that are expected to be more abundant this spring include the corn ear worm and flea beetles. None of us like to husk an ear of corn to eat and find a big, fat corn ear worm devouring some of the kernels. But cut out around them and enjoy the corn.
Experts are also saying that the brown, marmolated stink bug will be invading homes more this year. This critter is harmless but gives off a foul odor if crushed, they say.
We have a serious problem in Ohio with tree-killing insects such as the emerald ash borer and more recently, the Asian long-horned beetle that will attack maples. Because of the warm winter, they are expected to be more abundant.
Speaking of plants, several years ago we bought six cleomes for our flower bed. The following spring, that bed was covered with hundreds of small cleome plants. In the fall, they develop a long seed pod that shatters when dry and scatters seeds by the hundreds. We save a few small plants for friends, warning them that they will have hundreds the following spring. We also leave five or six for our garden, because they grow about 4 feet tall and have a beautiful fall flower that the bees love. It is a joy to watch the bees work those blossoms.
Now I have hundreds coming up this spring to destroy but will leave just enough for the back of our flower bed. Yes, they are "invasive" but not hard too get rid of if you know how to use a hoe.
We enjoyed the winter and should be able to deal with a few spring "consequences."
Parker is an independent writer for the Tribune.