Date of this Version
PNAS 2022 Vol. 119 No. 37 e2203230119
Overwintering success is an important determinant of arthropod populations that must be considered as climate change continues to influence the spatiotemporal population dynamics of agricultural pests. Using a long-term monitoring database and biologically relevant overwintering zones, we modeled the annual and seasonal population dynamics of a common pest, Helicoverpa zea (Boddie), based on three overwintering suitability zones throughout North America using four decades of soil temperatures: the southern range (able to persist through winter), transitional zone (uncertain overwintering survivorship), and northern limits (unable to survive winter). Our model indicates H. zea population dynamics are hierarchically structured with continental-level effects that are partitioned into three geographic zones. Seasonal populations were initially detected in the southern range, where they experienced multiple large population peaks. All three zones experienced a final peak between late July (southern range) and mid-August to mid-September (transitional zone and northern limits). The southern range expanded by 3% since 1981 and is projected to increase by twofold by 2099 but the areas of other zones are expected to decrease in the future. These changes suggest larger populations may persist at higher latitudes in the future due to reduced low-temperature lethal events during winter. Because H. zea is a highly migratory pest, predicting when populations accumulate in one region can inform synchronous or lagged population development in other regions. We show the value of combining long-term datasets, remotely sensed data, and laboratory findings to inform forecasting of insect pests.