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Some Insects Remain A Nuisance During Erratic Winter Weather

FILE

While northeast Indiana has endured cold, snowy conditions for the last week, temperatures were still reaching 50 degrees regularly by the start of January. How might these inconsistent temperatures impact the populations of nuisance insects around the Hoosier State?

Catharine A. Hill is an entomologist at Purdue University in West Lafayette. She says medical entomologists have a difficult time creating a mosquito or tick forecast, in part because local weather is so inconsistent; what’s happening in South Bend may not be the same as Fort Wayne, for example.

More notably, mosquitoes and ticks simply have erratic movement patterns.

“Sometimes we’ll see increases and exacerbations, and conversely -- and I guess counterintuitively -- at other times we’re going to see decreases and reductions in numbers or disease transmissions, and it’s going to take scientists a long time to pick that apart and work out why that happened,” Hill said.

So is the warm weather leading to more nuisance insects in what are typically “cold” months? Well… we don’t know.

But Hill adds that some ticks remain active through mid-February -- notably the ones that contain Lyme Disease -- so finding one now would not be too out of the ordinary. Mosquitoes that carry viruses like Zika, on the other hand...

“... are of low concern in the Fort Wayne area, but are of heightened concern or risk in southern regions of the state, where we know that we have at least Aedes albopictus, potentially Aedes aegypti,” she added.

And if seasonal temperatures continue to warm, those mosquitoes are could continue populating more northward.

Hill advises Hoosiers to understand the risks presented by nuisance insects and stay vigilant throughout the year through personal protection, like removing outdoor water containers and wearing clothes or sprays that repel the bugs.

Zach joined 89.1 WBOI as a reporter and local host for All Things Considered, and hosted Morning Edition for the past few years. In 2022, he was promoted to Content Director.