The bugs of summer are back

Robert Houk • May 29, 2019 at 12:00 AM

Hot and humid weather has arrived.

And that means the bugs of summer can’t be far behind.

In fact, many of them are already here. Experts say the heavy rains in April and early May paved the way for infestations of ants, gnats and termites. Byron Barnes, the president and owner of Barnes Exterminating Co., said with summer approaching, mosquitoes are now taking up residence in many local neighborhoods.

“Weather has an impact on insects,” Barnes said Tuesday. “We were getting a number of calls for ants and termites earlier in the spring. With a mild winter and a wet spring, it has been an active swarming season.”

Barnes said his company is also receiving calls about carpenter bees, wasps and other stinging insects in recent weeks. He said problems involving honey bees are referred to professional beekeepers so no harm comes to the pollinators. 

He said his crews are currently treating residential lawns and grounds to control ticks and mosquitoes.

“We are careful around flowering plants, and we don’t spray when it’s windy or rainy,” Barnes said.

A Biting Problem

Ticks and mosquitoes can be more than nuisance. In some cases, they can pose a public health risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says some ticks carry pathogens that can cause human illnesses, including Lyme disease.

And the Environmental Protection Agency says mosquito-borne diseases affect millions of people worldwide each year. Some species of mosquitoes can transmit diseases such as dengue fever and malaria to humans, as well as a variety of diseases to wildlife and domestic animals.

In recent years, health officials have warned of the threat from the Zika virus transmitted by mosquitoes. Adults infected with the Zika virus typically suffer mild symptoms, but there is evidence that pregnant women are much more impacted by the illness.

The number of reported cases of West Nile virus, another disease transmitted through mosquito bites, has declined in recent years, thanks in part to the efforts of Johnson City and other local governments to use chemical and biological pesticides to control the mosquito population in public spaces.

A Draining Solution

Barnes said homeowners can help control the mosquito population on their property by eliminating breeding habitats for the insects. That means getting rid of any standing water around the home, including water in potted plant containers, old tires and wading pools.

Mosquitoes can breed in any puddle that lasts more than four days. As little as a thimble full of water can serve as a nursery for baby mosquitoes.

Homeowners should keep drains, ditches and culverts clear of weeds and trash. Barnes said residents can also keep insects out of their homes by trimming shrubbery, properly maintaining landscaping and seeing that roof gutters are in working order.