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Insects are arriving early this year
Mild weather brings more bugs ahead of schedule
Paul Kravitz sprays bug poison along the foundation of a customer’s house. - photo by Tom Reed

Tips for avoiding mosquitoes

Prepare your yard

  • Clean or remove water regularly from any outdoor containers (bird baths, tires, pet water dishes) or any other item on the lawn that can collect water.
  • Clean leaves and other blockages from gutters. They can collect water.
  • Keep the grass trimmed.

Protect yourself

  • Avoid outdoor activities during early morning and dusk when exposure to biting mosquitoes is greatest.
  • When outdoors, wear insect repellent with DEET.
  • Long-sleeved shirts, pants and socks provide better protection.

Tips for dealing with ticks

Watch yourself

  • After being outdoors perform regular tick checks on your body.
  • Shower and wash your hair after a day spent outside.
  • For indoor/outdoor pets, check them for fleas and ticks, too.

If you find a tick...

  • Skip the old home remedies (choking it with Vaseline or burning it off).
  • Instead, get a pair of tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the head as possible. Pull it straight out slowly without squeezing or twisting it.

Source: Dave Palmer, Georgia Department of Public Health, District 2

Some unwanted houseguests are showing up a little early this year and in larger numbers.

Pest control companies and entomologists alike are blaming it on a mild winter.

“Overall, we’ve seen an emergence of insects earlier than what we’re used to,” said Michael Wheeler, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension coordinator for Hall County. “Everything seems to be a little ahead of schedule.”

The early emergence is leading to increased call volume for pest control companies.

Ants and termites are some of the biggest complaints, so far, said Wesley Adams, district manager for the Northeast Georgia division of Cook’s Pest Control.

Adams said his office is getting more calls, especially for this time of year, from residents who aren’t already pest
control clients.

Paul Kravitz, a pest control specialist for Duncan Exterminating Co. in Gainesville, said ants, carpenter bees and cockroaches are the driving force behind his recent flurry of calls.

“It’s been going since March when it turned hot,” Kravitz said. “For us, it’s real good.”

But it’s not just indoor pests that are posing a threat. Dave Palmer, a spokesman for the Georgia Department of Public Health, said mosquitoes and ticks — two insects known to spread diseases in humans — are out early this year, too.

Experts say the first batch of mosquito eggs are hatching up to six weeks ahead of schedule.

Mosquitoes, which can pass West Nile, St. Louis encephalitis and eastern equine encephalitis viruses to humans, are particularly on the health department’s radar this spring, said Palmer.

The number of cases of West Nile in Georgia is generally 10 to 20 a year.

West Nile virus can be transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. In most cases, a healthy immune system can fight off the virus.

About one in 150 people infected with West Nile virus will develop severe illness, said Palmer.

But in rare cases, typically involving elderly people, those with compromised immune systems or very young children, the disease can progress and show symptoms such as a fever and rash. In extremely rare cases, the virus can lead to encephalitis (swelling of the brain) and death.

To ensure safety, Palmer recommends homeowners reduce the likelihood of standing water in their yards, where mosquitoes lay their eggs. Pest control companies also offer chemical home mosquito protection.

When outdoors, people can protect themselves by using bug spray containing DEET and by wearing clothes that cover maximum surface area, said Palmer.

Palmer also warns that people should begin checking themselves, their children and their pets for ticks, as those are threatening to come early as well.

The unwelcome arrival of pests is not an isolated incident, either.

“It’s not just Georgia,” said Paul Hardy, a pest control veteran at Orkin for 51 years.

Hardy said that more insects are part of a national trend.

This year, a trade magazine published a photo of a bug smashed against a truck window. Hardy said the photo was taken in February in Indiana where temperatures are typically too cold for bugs to come out.

“That picture sums it up,” he said. “We had more bug activity because of more time.”

Most insects are not killed by cold temperatures — instead they hide and are inactive.

Mild winters, Hardy says, give insects a longer opportunity to be active because they don’t have to hide from the cold. More activity means more time to feed and procreate.

“They’re having more generations than they normally have,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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