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A Word from the Wise: What early spring-like conditions mean to Northwest pest populations.

The National Weather Service reported that January and February were a couple of the warmest on record for the Northwest. What does this mean for the average, ‘over-wintering’ pest?

 

While there are no absolutes in nature, this is my best prediction for what will take place:

 

In general, most insects and arachnids are endothermic – meaning that they are dependent on outside sources of heat. Therefore, when the weather warms like it has, it causes these pests to emerge from their slumber or over-wintering state.

 

Some of the pests that we are already seeing emerge are: spiders, box elders, cluster flies, ladybugs, yellow jacket queens, ants and mosquitoes. Other insects like the aphid and Indian meal moth only respond to the changes in time.”

If the weather continues to stay abnormally warm until we move into the actual spring and summer seasons what will that mean to the recently emerged pests?

To put it simply, it depends on the pests’ food source. Spiders, box elders, yellow jackets and ladybugs all need a live food source like aphids. Unfortunately for those species, aphids are more affected by time and season than temperature. The trees and plants that aphids feed on are also time affected. Therefore, the species that pray on such insects as aphids, will have no food to eat and will thus die off prematurely. This may cause a lower number of yellow jackets, wasps, spiders and ladybugs in the later months of the year.

 

For other insects, such as ants and mosquitoes, life will be a little more promising. Mosquitoes feed on blood, which is available year round and ants feed on anything from crumbs in the kitchen to fungus in the yard, depending on the species. If the weather stays warm, we may see an increase of mosquito populations this summer and possibly the next.

 

If the weather doesn’t stay warm and we get another big freeze, what will happen then?

If the weather gets cold again, the species that rely on a live food source will not have enough food to go back into dormancy. And their fate will remain the same, unfortunate. It may just arrive sooner and be more devastating to their populations.

Again, ants and mosquitoes will be fine. Ants are able to return to their dormancy state and mosquitoes have already been laying eggs which will survive.

 

For other common pests like rodents and birds, you should see these at the usual times and frequencies. Rodents are active all year long though they tend to show themselves indoors more often when the weather is cold outside. Birds will flock as usual, with the seasons.

-Ben Danielson

Safety & Technical Director

Eden Advanced pest Technologies

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