Winter was short this year, and warmer-than-average temperatures have led to a record-breaking spring.

Winter was short this year, and warmer-than-average temperatures have led to a record-breaking spring.

Insect specialists have said there has been worry that pest populations will rise in certain areas because there was no hard winter to kill insects off. Local experts were not immediately available to discuss the effect the short winter has had on insect populations, but in a recent Weather Channel publication, Orkin entomologist Ron Harrison spoke about the most widely-seen insects and how winter has affected them.

“We're about a month, maybe even two months early on some of the pests that we've experienced this year,” Harrison said in the article. “We've actually seen a 40 percent increase in calls this year versus last year.

“I think there are two issues,” he added. “The mild winter in most areas did not kill many of the pests or reduce their populations, and then the real warm spring, which we're experiencing, has triggered their development. But what we find is with carpenter bees or even the fly species, once you reach 60 or 70 degrees, they become very active. So when you have that in March, when you should typically have that in April, then you have all this pest activity that you just don't expect yet.”
Harrison said he’s already received complaints about mosquitos.

“The mosquitoes are out and biting people,” he said. “For example, in the Atlanta market, we don't usually see that until April or May. In New York, the same thing is going on.”

Because mosquitos can spread disease, an increased population would theoretically raise the risk of contracting a disease.

“I don't think anyone can get a definitive answer on that,” Harrison said. “What we can say, though, is if the weather remains mild and continues to be warmer-than-normal, then you might add one to two generations in some locations. In the New York area, where you generally have two or three generations of mosquitoes, you might have one extra this year, because they started (reproducing) earlier. Will the warm weather encourage diseases to develop quicker or to have more access to mosquitoes? I don't know — but we do feel you may add one or two generations.”

Wasps are coming out in force as well, Harrison said in the article.

“Whether or not they survived would be winter-based,” Harrison mentioned about wasps, which, the South might have noticed, never really went away this winter. “But since they did survive, that's now a spring issue.”

The short winter has affected pollen levels as well, and Harrison said that could affect the bee population.

“Typically, the bug doesn't wait for that to come out -- both of them are happening at the same time,” he said. “The warm weather is triggering the plants, which, therefore, is triggering the insects that would be involved with pollination. The weather or environment triggers both to happen, and therefore, it's mutually beneficial."

Depending on the temperature and location, Harrison continued, fire ants can become more active in a warmer-than-normal year.

“I have noticed in the Atlanta area that fire ants are clearly more active early than they have been in the past,” Harrison said, adding that while he hasn't visited other areas in the region, but he suspects the same across the South. “You might have bigger colonies developing because the weather is milder, earlier.”

The same can go for termites, which Harrison said the warm spring has allowed to thrive. But the swarms have been ambitious with the extra days of warmth, Harrison said, and that has actually been a good thing for those having issues with the pests.

“The termite issue was just that we saw swarms; therefore, that helped customers realize that they had a termite problem going inside their house, so they could call us and get started on it,” he said. “Unlike other pests that have multiple generations, termites have just one swarm.”

One bit of good news, Harrison said, is that there isn't much evidence that a warm year will make the cockroach population grow or that they will grow larger than normal. Roaches lay their eggs out for the winter to hatch in the spring, Harrison said in the article, and there isn't a lot of additional reproduction occurring as a result of the warmer weather.

“The term 'bigger' -- it's like us, they don't get any bigger than they are. But as for an increase in population ... you might get an extra generation. There may be a higher population, but right now, I haven't seen a lot of cockroaches running around and we haven't gotten a lot of calls about that,” Harrison said. “As far as the German cockroach, that's a completely interior pest, and the weather would have very little impact on them.”