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Warmer Temperatures Mean Hungrier Pests

Warmer temperatures across the region from climate change are making insect pests hungrier. That’s according to a new study published in the journal Science.

Curtis Deutsch is a Professor of Oceanography at the University of Washington, and one of the authors of the study. He said for every degree Celsius that temperatures rise above the global historical average, crops lost to insects will increase by 10 to 25 percent.

“If you’re sort of the average person that has plenty to eat, it probably means that prices will just go up a bit,” said Deutsch. “If you’re the average person that doesn’t have enough to eat, it’s likely that you’ll go hungrier.”

The research said higher temperatures make insect pests eat more because it speeds of their metabolisms. It also speeds up their life cycles, so they reproduce more quickly.

The study focused on wheat, corn and rice, since they make up almost half of the calories humans eat. But Deutsch said most crops will feel the impacts of hungrier bugs.

And to make matters worse he said if farmers turn to more pesticides, that could hurt other organisms—like insects that eat the pests, or humans.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

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