As warm temperatures make a mockery of winter, some wonder if the mild days will have folks swatting at more mosquitoes and other pesky insects this summer.
Will the lack of cold weather allow bugs to thrive?
“My scientific answer: It depends,” says Eric Benson, professor and extension entomologist at Clemson University.
Benson says many different bugs live in South Carolina, and many different factors decide if they thrive or not. “Just because they’re active early doesn’t necessarily mean there will be more of them later.”
Moisture and food resources are among factors that determine how buggy the summer may be. And also consider that just because the temperature is hovering around 80 on the first day of March doesn’t mean cold and even freezing weather is out of the forecast before summer really arrives. If that happens, it could kill off a portion of the bug population.
“A cold snap could knock them back,” Benson says. One thing to look at is the temperature at night: Once the low stays at or above 55 degrees consistently, expect to see more bugs.
And if there isn’t a cold snap?
“It’s really hard to say,” says Powell Smith, with the Clemson Extension in Lexington County. “It’s not always cause and effect. We’re not anticipating any type of onslaught.”
Want to keep the mosquitoes away? Make sure you have no standing water in your yard, including flower pots, gutters, etc., says Robert Yanity, spokesman for the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. And do it now, because the warm weather could mean it’s time for mosquitoes’ breeding grounds to become productive.
“It’s never too soon to try to eliminate mosquito breeding grounds,” Yanity says. “Mosquitoes could be out earlier than usual if the weather stays moderate. An early emergence would give them a longer time period to reproduce, so mosquito populations might get large in early summer, instead of in late summer.”
The return of spring and summer will likely renew worries about the Zika virus. The virus is a concern nationally because of the devastating effects it can have on babies. Women who are pregnant or who are considering getting pregnant run the risk of having babies with birth defects if the women are bitten by Zika-carrying mosquitoes. Babies born in other countries to some women bitten by Zika mosquitoes have abnormally small heads.
The virus can be spread by mosquitoes, especially Aedes aegypti, which prefers to bite people instead of animals and tends to cluster near neighborhoods, mosquito experts have said. But that mosquito isn’t as widespread in South Carolina as the Aedes albopictus mosquito, which can also carry the virus, although that mosquito is just as happy biting animals as people.
With Zika concerns, DHEC encourages everyone to take precautions. For more information on steps that individuals can take to prevent mosquito bites and eliminate mosquito breeding grounds around their homes, visit www.scdhec.gov/mosquitoes. For more information on the Zika virus, visit www.scdhec.gov/zika.