How bad will the bugs be after the mild winter?
You may have loved this winter’s unusually warm weather, but guess what—so did many insects. The winter warmth (this was the sixth-warmest winter and second warmest February on record in the United States according to NOAA) was pure buggy bliss. Add a warm, wet spring to the mix, and 2017 is creating the perfect breeding ground for some of our least favorite insect pests, including ticks and mosquitoes.
“Most of the pest insects that we're dealing with are not migrating,” said Fredericks. “They have to find a way to make it through the winter. When it's a mild winter, they tend to do a little bit better.”
It's pretty straightforward: when the weather is milder, more insects survive the winter, which means there are more insects around to bite us and breed come springtime. Fredericks and his colleagues made their 2017 predictions based on the winter and spring weather coupled with predictions for the rest of spring and summer.
More adult mosquitoes live through a warm winter, and more of their larvae survive as well. And since mosquitoes breed in standing water, a wet spring gives them plenty of romantic enclaves to keep the population boom going. Moreover, warm weather speeds up a mosquito’s reproductive lifecycle—she can lay more eggs and have them hatch more quickly. If this is making you itchy, it should.
What should you do with this information?
“Do a self-assessment of your property of areas that could potentially breed mosquitoes,” said Fredericks. “You should look for anything that is going to hold water. A lot of people hear about flower pots and old tires, and sure, those are places where water can accumulate. But these mosquitoes can breed in the volume of water that can be held inside of bottle cap. It's time to be mindful debris and trash and children's toys. Make sure that rain gutters are clear and not clogged.”
Also, Fredericks recommends wearing any repellant that appears on the CDC approved the list, which includes DEET, Picaridin, Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or (PMD) (which isn’t to be confused with the lemon of eucalyptus essential oil). And while dawn and dusk used to be the primetime biting period for mosquitos, newer species such as Aedes aegypti are day biters. As for ticks, donning repellant and covering up—light colored, long-sleeved pants and long shirts—is key in tick areas. That means woods and grassy areas, but even the wild edges of your property can be perilous when you're out doing yard work.