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A warm winter might soon turn very creepy


I recently noticed numerous large, low flying mosquitoes outside the exterior doors of our home. So much for the advantages of a mild winter.

Mosquitoes, fleas, ants, termites and ticks are awake early from hibernation and are hungry for breakfast.

Pest control companies nationwide are reporting a substantial increase in calls to treat ant infestations compared with March 2011. Termite control calls also started coming in early.

Entomologists have issued an early warning of ticks, which are arachnids, not insects and possibly carriers of Lyme disease, hiding in back yards and on the family dog.

I once studied entomology but finally surrendered to ignorance because I could not master the Latin involved in identifying the various insects and their families. “Whenever we have a warm winter, they’re going to be out earlier,” one entomologist noted recently. “How do you stop them? You pray for cold weather.”

It must be a danged if you are, danged if you are not equalization.

Honeybees fit that equalization, if I remember my entomology lessons. In areas with little rain and snow during this winter, spring flowers may not produce sufficient nectar to feed colonies of the bees.

Colonies of wild bees are already in trouble, having been devastated by a parasite I can’t pronounce or spell.

For agriculture producers, pesticide costs can become very expensive. Some can transmit a pathogen that destroys certain crops.

In urban areas, termites are waking up inside houses, and a homeowner who spots them probably has a problem.

The survival of the species rule kicks in when you are dealing with insects. “Always bet on the bug,” an official with one pest control company noted recently. “They’ve been around for millions of years.

In addition to ticks and mosquitoes, entomologist say black flies, fire ants, fleas and army worms thrive in the early season warmth.

Black flies, also known as buffalo gnats and turkey gnats, are already swarming in some areas of South Arkansas.

The red imported fire ants, which thrive in the warmer temperatures, are already triggering calls to county agents and entomologists. Active colonies have been spotted as far north as Fort Smith and visible mounds are flourishing in South Arkansas.

Since the mosquito population depends on the amount of standing water, our only salvation may come from another drought like the summer of 2011.

True army worms should arrive with springtime to begin munching on the green grass.

A simple analysis of the spring-like temperatures in the last weeks of winter means we must prepare to be bitten early and often, the experts tell us.

I didn’t major in meteorology or entomology, so I offer no grand pronouncements about climate warming. However, there has been a good indication our planet is warming: Pests that were found only in the southern region are moving into the northern region.

If that holds true, I won’t miss the mosquitoes, fleas, ticks and buffalo gnats moving to Yankee territory. They should have moved north after the Civil War ended.

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Larry Fugate is a veteran journalist and former editor of The Pine Bluff Commercial. He can be reached by e-mail at fugatel@sbcglobal.net or at (870) 329-7010.