Wet Weather Stirs Up Insects

As rain continues across the state, insects might find their way into people's waterlogged backyards, homes, and landscapes.

"There are insects and their relatives that thrive under most any set of conditions; this spring belongs to the 'water bugs,'" said Lee Townsend, PhD, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture entomologist.

Some of the biggest wet-weather nuisances are floodwater mosquitoes. These mosquitoes lay eggs in low-lying areas and wait for spring rains. Adults emerge around two weeks after a heavy rainfall--ready to eat. They might travel as far as 10 miles away from their breeding site in search of food.

Two of the most common species are the floodwater and the inland floodwater mosquitos. The inland floodwater mosquito is a significant pest in Western Kentucky that can spawn several generations each year. The mosquito is most active in the early evening, at dusk, or just after dark, from late spring through summer. It has an irritating, painful bite.

"Fortunately, except for dog heartworm, they are not significant disease carriers," Townsend said.

Avoid mosquitoes by staying indoors when the insects are most active, wearing light-colored, long-sleeved clothing, and using insect repellent.

Wet weather also brings several arthropods indoors including clover mites, springtails, and ants.

Only 0.03 inches long, clover mites look like moving dark spots to the naked eye. They will not harm people or pets but are considered nuisances because they often are found in large numbers and leave a red-brown stain when crushed.

The grass-eating mites are always present in lawns, but thrive during cool, wet springs or in excessively fertilized turf. They will crawl up outside walls and enter homes around doors or windows.

If found indoors, wipe the mites up with a soapy rag or wet sponge being careful not to crush the mites and cause stains. The crevice tool of a vacuum is also useful in mite removal.

Outdoor preventive measures include keeping turf trimmed and avoiding overfertilizing.

Like the clover mites, springtails can be numerous in humid or moist areas around homes and landscapes. They typically enter homes at the foundation, doorways, or at basement or crawlspace openings.

Springtails will die in dry air. Thus, if they are persistent in a home, there's likely excess humidity or moisture present. A key to controlling springtails is to reduce the humidity or moisture in your home by improving air circulation. A dehumidifier or air conditioner might help.

Another common wet weather home invader is the pavement ant. These ants often build their nests along building foundations, concrete slabs, or sidewalks and enter homes through cracks or openings. The ants have an indiscriminate palate, eating everything from dead insects to greasy foods to pet food. Often they'll form a trail from their colonies to their food sources. To effectively control the ants, homeowners should locate and directly treat their mound-shaped nests. Over time, ant traps will destroy the whole colony. Homeowners also can treat an infestation by applying insecticide directly to the nest.

In addition, it is common for cane fly larvae to appear in landscapes in the spring. These larvae resemble cutworms but have no legs or distinct head. The larvae feed on decaying organic matter in wet, shady areas. During excessively wet periods they come out of the shaded areas and become visible on sidewalks or driveways. Neither the larvae nor adults, which resemble mosquitoes, are harmful, but large numbers of these could indicate that an area is constantly wet or has too much organic matter, which could lead to other problems.

Katie Pratt is an agricultural communications specialist within UK's College of Agriculture.

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