Drought leads to increase in insects

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 29, 2007

Among other concerns with the dry weather, area home and business owners are experiencing increased pests.

Jack Brewer, technical director for Lewis Pest Control, said that over the last month they have received more calls than usual about a specific pest, a kind of ant commonly known as sugar ants.

The most common place to find the nourishment they require, according to Brewer, is inside a home where there are readily available sources of water.

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Among their other major pests &8212; roaches, fleas and spiders &8212;Brewer said they have maintained similar levels to this time last year. One thing that has been down, he said, is the mosquito population.

Marengo County Extension Coordinator Kathryn Friday said they receive a continual cycle of calls about pests.

Brian Lee, manager of the Terminix branch in Huntsville estimates that calls are up 162 percent from last year at this time. The national pest control firm&8217;s Birmingham branch reported 20 to 25 percent more calls than usual.

Orkin, Inc., another national pest control firm, also reported a rise in insect infestations across the Southeast. The Montgomery branch is seeing a 20 percent increase in ant activity and a 10 percent increase in roach activity.

Both pest control firms have also noticed a spike in rodent calls, unusual for this time of year.

Rodents generally enter homes in October as temperatures fall, and homeowners usually report infestations in January and February when the first litters of baby rats and mice start running around, said Ron Harrison, director of training for Orkin. Usually, exterminators report few, if any, rodent calls between May and October, he said.

In Alabama, there have also been a number of media reports of snakebites in recent weeks. This, too, could be a side effect of the drought.

Lynn Hampton, with Animal Control Experts in the Birmingham area, said, &8220;There have probably been more snake calls than usual.&8221;

She explained that snakes are prey specific, meaning they live where their food source is. If insects, mice and other small rodents that snakes eat are moving toward homes in search of food, the snakes are likely to follow.

With the dry conditions showing no signs of letting up, homeowners could face more problems as the summer continues. But is there anything they can do to stop invading pests?

What people can do, Forschler said, is try to keep the critters from getting inside in the first place. One of the easiest solutions is to install door sweeps on exterior doors and to make sure all doors and windows are tightly sealed.

He also said the mulch on plants around homes is usually an ideal home for insects since it retains water. But as it dries out, the insects naturally go into the nearby homes in search of hydration. So keeping mulching and watering in mulched areas to a minimum is a good idea.

To combat rodent invaders, Harrison said it helps to prune shrubs near the home because rodents don&8217;t like to travel out in the open and are less likely to go toward a house if there&8217;s nothing for them to hide under along the way. He also recommended not leaving standing water around and to be careful about putting out birdseed too close to the house.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.