Maintaining salt balance helps insects avoid frosty fate: could assist with pest control

For humans, getting chilly is a problem that can usually be solved with a hat and mitts, but for insects it's not so simple. A study led by a York University Postdoctoral Fellow has found that for some insects, the key to cold weather survival is in keeping their salt balance in check, and that finding could help with controlling pests in the future.

Insects make up more than 75 per cent of all animal species; some are beneficial, such as pollinators, but others are carriers of disease.

"Insects lose the ability to maintain proper salt and water balance in the cold. When they are chilled, sodium and water move from the insect's blood into their gut," said Heath MacMillan, who led the study. "This is bad news for the insect because it concentrates potassium in the hemolympha [blood] where it remains."

In the study published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers from Canada, Denmark and the United Kingdom suggest that the difference between life and death for an insect in the cold is a matter of keeping potassium levels low in their blood (hemolympha).

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