It’s been a pretty mild winter here in New England – compared to what we are accustomed to. While we feel for the ski resorts, snow removal companies, and anyone else that makes a living off cold and snow, we are really enjoying not wearing mittens, a winter coat, and a hat! The folks in New England can even take a February hike – when was the last time you heard that? In January, some of our technicians ate their lunch outside in t-shirts!
What does an unusually mild and warm winter mean for us in the spring? When it comes to pests, it will mean more of them. The cold weather in a normal New England winter is tough for bugs to live through. Most of them just aren’t made to endure it. That “die off” time is necessary to control the pest population. It’s all a part of nature. When the temperatures stay mild for much of the season, the pest population increases in the spring. Mosquito eggs tend to last the winter unless temperatures plummet unexpectedly, but the real activity begins when they hatch in spring. A mild winter means that mosquitoes hatch earlier with more sources of moisture, so they can go through more generations beginning in spring and become an even worse problem in late summer. We spoke to Board Certified Entomologist, Hope Bowman. She noted that in addition to mosquitoes, there are plenty of other pests that benefit from a warmer winter season. She said to be on the watch for “flies, ticks, and rodents like rats and mice.”
The milder weather also means an abundance of the pests’ food sources that are usually dead or just covered by snow. If you’ve seen the confused snowdrops in your yard, this fact makes sense. That means that many insects will have early access to plenty of food, allowing them to survive and form new colonies more quickly.
Warmer temperatures can encourage insects to push into homes, attack vulnerable wood or soil, and infest the spring trees and plants that are starting to bud early. Also keep in mind that mild winters make it easier for fungi and other destructive growths to form, so your trees and garden may be endangered by more than just some eager bugs.
Pests like ticks can also be waking up early – and probably a little confused. So, while you’re enjoying the milder weather by going on a February hike, don’t forget that they may be out there, too. And, of course, they bring with them all the same dangers when it’s cold out like Lyme disease. Bowman noted, “Ticks can become active whenever temperatures rise above freezing. Always follow CDC guidelines to protect yourself from tick bites and perform thorough tick checks after spending time outdoors. Don’t forget your pets!” Use caution in areas with brush and tall grass, as well as the transition between grass and wooded areas in your yard, at the park, and in the forest or on the trails. Consider adding flea and tick control to your pest services earlier than you normally would. And no matter where you are outdoors, limit exposed skin, use an appropriate repellant, and check for ticks to be safe. Bowman also said, “In addition to ticks, we have also been seeing beetles like lady bugs as well as stink bugs, boxelder bugs, and Western conifer seed bugs earlier than normal in the area.”
The milder winter in the New England states like Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine, and Connecticut has been a nice change this year! Just keep in mind there are consequences for all of it, but having the knowledge helps us all be ready.