The grass is green and flowers are in bloom all over Augusta, but spring means more than pretty petals and picture-perfect lawns to David Parker.
For him, it means the fleas are jumping, termites are swarming and ants are marching.
“We are going to have a buggy year,” said Parker, the owner of David M. Parker Exterminating in Augusta.
Parker said the mild winter and warm spring have insects hatching and on the move earlier than usual, which means his phone is ringing all day long.
“Everything is kicking into high gear with this 80-degree weather,” he said. “Insects are popping. Termites have been swarming out for about two weeks.”
Although some people might think a cold winter kills pests, that’s not the case, said Marianne Cruz, an instructor for the University of Georgia’s Department of Entomology. She said most insects and other crawling creatures have egg and pupa stages that allow them to survive cold winters.
“Warmer weather doesn’t necessarily mean there will be more insects, but it does mean you will see them sooner this year,” she said.
The eggs hatch earlier, but that also means the beneficial insects, such as ladybugs and dragonflies, will come out earlier, Cruz said.
Jeff Annis, of Advanced Services, said his call volume has been growing for the past couple of weeks as more insects emerge. He said the mild winter did go easy on one category of insects – wasps and bald-faced hornets.
“Usually, they have to start from scratch every year,” he said. This winter, the wasp nests have just kept growing.
“There’s going to be basketball-size hornet nests this year because they never stopped,” Annis said.
If anything is likely to affect insect populations, it is the dry weather, Cruz said. Less rain generally means fewer mosquitoes, but that can change very quickly, she said.
Annis said he is already seeing swarms of the bloodthirsty insects in backyards.
“We have mosquitoes now like we usually have in June,” he said.
Even though the past winter was the driest in years, it takes only a little rain for mosquitoes to recover, Annis said.
“The egg stage can last for two to four years in a dormant state,” he said, adding that a single thunderstorm can create swarms of the biting pests 48 hours later. Residents need to empty anything that captures water after a rain to help slow down the life cycle.
“People are already being attacked in the late afternoon and early evening,” he said. “That’s going to be bad for Masters parties.”