Unless one is able to accurately foresee the future, this all remains to be played out. The problem that can be foreseen is the fact that the soil temperature is changing almost weekly. In the first week of January, most of the soil in Michigan had not frozen. If it warms enough, plants may begin to send up new growth. That could be fatal for the new growth at this time of the year.
The best thing to do is make sure that all beds are mulched with 3 inches of something. It could be woodchips, dry leaves, straw or old hay. If it is light and fluffy like straw or hay, you can probably pile on another inch or so. All you are looking for is cheap insulation that lets the water pass through.
If the mulch becomes waterlogged and water can’t leave, this could cause rotting problems for the crowns of plants in the spring. You are trying to stabilize the soil temperature and have it change as slowly as possible. This is why it might be wise to leave all those collapsed hosta leaves over the crown of the plant. The plant has already done some insulating for itself.
Trees and shrubs are a little better suited for this kind of weather nonsense. They have bud scales that are the brown, papery covering on the leaf and flower buds. Those little, plain brown wrappers do an excellent job of protection.
What you are hoping not to see is piles of bud coverings littering the ground or snow under the trees. When they get naked, they get frozen.
These plants have been around for millions of years and so has weird weather. And with any luck, this year won’t change much.
There is a very good chance that your winter guests are not brown marmorated stink bugs (BMSB).
We have a regular overwintering insect called a Western conifer seed bug that looks very similar. They also get into houses over the winter.
Before you get too excited, take a close look at one of your dead guys. If you have a Western conifer seed bug, they would be associated with evergreens that produce cones outside in the landscape. They feed on the gooey goodness inside new evergreen seeds.
This insect’s most important part to check is its lower hind leg. That part of the leg gets wider and flatter that the rest of the leg and looks like someone stuck a small leaf on the leg. The antennae are all brown and it has black and white checks on each side of the abdomen like a border.
The brown marmorated stinkbug has a skinny lower hind leg. The BMSB has a back that is a mottled or marbled brown color. The seed bug does not. The BMSB has two white stripes on the antennae and white triangles marking on the sides of the abdomen. If you crunch a BMSB, it will smell bad enough to drive you out of the room. If it is a seedbug, they smell like musky, diluted turpentine or evergreen air freshener.
Check online at the MSU Diagnostic Clinic website to see the mug shots: http://pestid.msu.edu <http://pestid.msu.edu/> then click on insects and arthropods. When it is this cold outside, no insects are coming in. And the ones that are in a heated area are running out of food reserves because there is nothing to eat indoors. And who or whatever they are, they’re dead. So right now, that’s everything that you could have hoped for.