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Warm winter could cause an early mosquito season
Shannon Glean watches daughter Brealyn, 3, go down the slide Thursday at Wilshire Trails Park in Gainesville. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

The unseasonably warm temperatures this winter could cause certain insects, like mosquitoes, to come out earlier than normal this year.

As long as the temperatures are below 40 degrees most insects won't grow and spawn, according to Paul Guillebeau, professor of entomology at the University of Georgia.

But with high temperatures expected to be in the 40s this weekend, entomologists say we'll likely see insects emerging soon.

The weekend nights, with lows in the low to mid-20s, might slow that emergence slightly. Saturday night's low is forecast to plummet to near 20, with Sunday night's low predicted to be 24 before a warming trend begins to raise temperatures again.

"One big thing is that if the spring continues like it is they're going to have an earlier start than they normally have. The earlier the spring the greater their population is going to become," Guillebeau said.

Insects typically begin maturing, feeding and breeding when the temperatures rise in the spring.

Guillebeau said the total population of a species increases tenfold with each generation.

Should some early bugs be caught in a late freeze, many will die off but there are plenty of places for insects to hide out until temperatures rise again.
"We humans have provided insects with some wonderful places to get away from the cold," UGA Professor of Entomology Nancy Hinkle said.

Hinkle explained that storm drains, crawl spaces and culverts are excellent hiding places for insects. She said most insects are very hardy and can handle the cold.
"A lot of insects have a form of antifreeze in their blood so they can tolerate subzero temperatures for a short time," Hinkle said.

Gainesville State College Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Evan Lampert said people should consider wearing bug spray when going hiking or participating in other outdoor activities.
"With weather like this we need to take precautions as you would in the summer," Lampert said.
Precautions should especially be taken when it comes to animals like dogs and cats.

"Mosquito bites are the only way they can get heartworm. There is never a day of the year where you don't have to worry about your dog getting heartworms," Hinkle said.
Hinkle advises giving dogs a heartworm preventative medication once a month to keep them healthy.
While more insects are expected to come out earlier this year, Hinkle said by midsummer there will be just as many insects as there usually are.

"I think in June or July we won't be able to tell the difference," Hinkle said.

Besides citronella candles and bug zappers, there are a few things that can help reduce local mosquito populations.

"The biggest thing is keeping pools of water cleaned out and not letting stagnant water stay in a container," Hall County Agricultural Extension Agent Michael Wheeler said.

A female mosquito lays eggs about every five days, so by cleaning things like bird baths once a week the eggs won't have a chance to mature. "A lot of the nasty species develop in containers, just anything with standing water, trash, tires, etc., so it's important to be dumping those kind of things out all year long," Lampert said.