EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 22, 2014

Break out the bug spray as warm weather returns

Spring means ticks, mosquitoes and more

By John Toole

---- — Get ready to get bugged.

Conditions are favorable — for now — for a good start to the season for ticks, black flies and mosquitoes.

But that all could change. It just depends on the weather.

“For mosquitoes, most species should have survived the winter well, and we’ve just had rain to fill the vernal pools,” said Alan Eaton, entomologist with University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension. “So, in the short term, the snowmelt and spring pool species may do well.”

Dragon Mosquito Control is beginning surveillance is Plaistow, Londonderry, Salem and other communities.

“There are pretty high numbers of mosquitoes in the water right now,” owner Sarah MacGregor said.

But wait on the weather.

“Beyond that is largely dependent on the coming weather, so it can’t be predicted,” Eaton said.

MacGregor echoed that thought. Rain will help the bugs, dry weather works for the people, she said.

“A dry spring would be good for us, bad for the bugs,” she said. “Rain will keep the population healthy.”

There may be snow piles in shady places, but ticks are out and about.

“Ticks survived the winter very well,” Eaton said. “Blacklegged ticks are already active.”

MacGregor has seen them, too.

“The ticks are already out,” she said. “As soon as the snow melts, we see ticks.”

She admits it’s unfair. People are just getting outside after a cold winter and now have to contend with ticks. “Everyone wants to be outside,” she said.

Her advice to people who are in the woods or live nearby is to check themselves and their pets for ticks.

Spring weather could make a difference in the numbers of ticks.

“If we get a drought, that will stop,” Eaton said.

Black flies may have been hurt in places by a dry early fall.

“That might have caused some mortality of blackfly larvae,” Eaton said.

But the winter probably helped.

“They had plenty of water flow through the winter, so other than some spots that had drought, they should be OK in numbers,” he said.

MacGregor thinks so, too.

“Black flies, I would expect, will have a good season because of all the runoff,” she said. “They like clean, fresh water.”

She recommends people eliminate any standing water on their property, including in places where it might collect.

“Make sure there is nothing standing in containers,” MacGregor said.

Ticks are out spring to fall, with the highest risk to people in June, Eaton said.

Black flies typically peak in June in Southern New Hampshire, he said. It varies for mosquitoes, shaped by the weather. Eaton said a repeated cycle of rain followed by a week to 10 days of warm weather is ideal for them.

“There would be huge numbers,” he said. “Those conditions breed them.”