February 2nd marks the day that millions of people nationwide turn to a groundhog to determine whether or not they should put away their winter jackets or brace for weeks of shoveling more snow. Seems pretty strange, doesn’t it? So, how did Groundhog Day become a national event? And more importantly, what does Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction mean for mosquitoes this year?
The first Groundhog Day celebration (as we know it) began in 1887 at Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. But the tradition extends long beyond that to the ancient German tradition of Candlemas Day. Halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox (early February), clergymen would bless and distribute candles needed for winter, which people would display in the windows of their homes. If the sun came out the following morning, the European hedgehog would poke its head out of the burrow, see a shadow, and retreat underground to prepare for another six weeks of winter. The tradition continued with early German settlers in Pennsylvania, simply replacing the European hedgehog with a groundhog.
Fast forward to present day when thousands of people flock to Gobbler’s Knob in Pennsylvania to see whether Punxsutawney Phil is going to see his shadow or not. If you’ve ever tuned into the live broadcast event, you’ve probably noticed a group of gentlemen in top hats and tuxedos encircling Phil. They are known as the Inner Circle – a group of local residents designated with planning the event and caring for the groundhog year round. They claim that there has only been one Punxsutawney Phil in over 120 years, made possible by a special Groundhog Elixir administered every summer. Although the celebration has been slightly embellished over the years, the tradition remains. If Phil sees his shadow, it means six more weeks of winter. If there is no shadow at all, then spring will come early. According to The Washington Post, Phil isn’t as accurate in his predictions as we’d like to believe. While he has technically been right more times than not, the change in average temperatures over the years and across the country are too small to give this tradition much meteorological credibility.
So, what does Phil’s prediction mean for mosquitoes? While six more weeks of winter might sound like a nightmare right now, colder temperatures will keep mosquitoes away for longer. Once temperatures drop below 50 degrees and stay there consistently, mosquitoes will either die or enter into a hibernation state called diapause. However, an early spring will not only wake those hibernating mosquitoes up, it will signal mosquito eggs that it’s time to hatch! Eggs can survive very extreme weather, so this winter was nothing for them. It might make you think twice about wishing for April showers and May flowers.
Of course, an early spring also brings beautiful weather, the opportunity to get outside, and the chance to call your favorite mosquito control company! Depending on where you live, Mosquito Joe may be up and running sooner than you think, ready to protect your family and yard against outdoor pests. Contact your local Mosquito Joe for more information, and don’t forget to call us when the icicles melt!