Wet weather means more bugs

First Posted: 7/7/2009

DOBSON A spring filled with rain brought more than healthy fields and gardens to the area. It also laid the groundwork for a summer of bugs, local experts say.
Increased populations of mosquitoes, gnats, spiders and certain other pests are showing up as a result of the unusually wet weather patterns of the last couple of months.
Along with the higher numbers in general has come intensified concern about the spread of mosquitoes in specific, according to Surry Cooperative Extension Director Bryan Cave, since they are a health risk. Mosquitoes can transmit disease organisms to humans and domestic animals.
And that threat will be around for months, said Cave. Basically up until it frosts.
The problem comes down to a basic equation in nature: more rain typically equals more life, and sometimes that means stimulating negative species as well as the good.
Moisture will influence the life cycle of most insects, said Karl Bretz, who has taught biology at Surry Community College for about six years. It was obviously a wet spring, and in low-lying areas theres still standing water.
More than 15 inches of precipitation were recorded in the Mount Airy area in May and June alone. This past May was the third-wettest on record in the city.
Along with the increased moisture, temperatures have been quite warm and humid in recent weeks, which also helped create fertile conditions for insects to lay their eggs, Bretz said. And now theyre hatching.
While mosquito populations are a concern because of the health risks they pose, the same conditions have caused other pests to thrive as well. It generally would be across the board, Bretz said. And I think theres some environmental correlations.
The climactic patterns and other factors involved at this time of year can create some unusual combinations, he said in discussing the impact on insect populations.
Mosquitoes need water to complete their life cycle, so this means their breeding grounds can be just about anywhere water can collect, according to Cave, the local extension director. They lay eggs in wet areas, he said of mosquitoes and other problem insects that will thrive after rainy periods.
Although drier conditions recently have brought some relief in terms of eliminating places where those pests thrive, Cave said many still remain. So if an areas not draining, or the culvert underneath your driveway isnt draining well, those are excellent places for mosquitoes to lay their eggs and hatch, he said.
The extension official also pointed to another common sanctuary for mosquito breeding: buckets or barrels that collect rain water and havent been emptied in awhile. Bird baths and empty or discarded containers and tires can collect water as well, with Cave saying that every homeowner should inspect their premises for such items and keep them free of accumulations.
Those are ideal places, so they need to do the best they can in managing that and not leaving standing water laying around, he said, pointing out that the recent high humidity makes such sites even more conducive to mosquito proliferation.
This also includes dumping excess water from saucers under potted plants kept outdoors.
Lakes or farm ponds are usually not major mosquito breeding areas if they contain fish and are free of weeds, algae or floating debris in which mosquito larvae can hide. The flow of streams and other bodies of water also makes them less susceptible to harboring mosquito populations than standing water in backyards.
Cave recommends the use of repellents in areas where mosquitoes are abundant.
Experts also advise keeping wet organic matter such as leaves out of gardens to lessen the presence of slugs, which feed on vegetables.

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