Rain-Related Pest Problems

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As areas across the state begin to dry out, we can expect to see mosquito populations begin to rise over the next two weeks. In most residential areas, our major problem will be with mosquito species such as the Asian tiger mosquito which tend to stay very localized and take advantage of standing (and stagnating)  water that is trapped in poorly draining low-lying areas, ditches that are  clogged with silt and debris, clogged rain gutters, carelessly discarded containers, etc. Coastal areas in particular will see rises in salt marsh mosquito populations. These mosquitoes can fly miles in search of a meal. Mosquitoes can be an extreme nuisance to people as they work outdoors cleaning up after storms.

Some municipalities may decide to initiate mosquito control programs if mosquitoes become a significant nuisance. For individuals, spraying yards isn’t necessarily a priority compared to other recovery issues and may be difficult if areas are still flooded or still extremely wet. Any spraying should be done with great care and particularly if people are working outdoors cleaning up or children and pets are outdoors.

When people call and ask what they can spray to control mosquitoes in their yard, suggest that they start with a little “R&R”:

REMOVAL – the technical term for this is “source reduction”. The basic term for it is “Common Sense”. Aside from a tasty meal (you, in this case), mosquitoes need water in order to breed. As mentioned earlier, our major problem in residential areas are mosquitoes breeding in those temporary (“temporary” being a relative term) sources of water. So, start your mosquito control program by removing standing water. We call them “drainage ditches” for a reason – they’re supposed to collect and  drain water, not keep it impounded to make a ‘mosquito motel’. So, remove silt and  debris that clog those ditches so that storm water drains more quickly. Check tarp-covered items for standing water and remove it. Empty all of those water-filled containers that you’ve been planning to get rid of from your back yard. Better still, get rid of those water-filled containers!

Additional information and links about mosquito control can be found at:
http://insects.ncsu.edu/Urban/mosquito.htm

REPEL – since you’ll be outdoors keeping busy with storm cleanup, use
repellents to protect yourself from becoming a mosquito meal. You can  apply repellents to *exposed* skin and to your clothing to keep pesky mosquitoes away. You can find information about repellents on our website at:  http://insects.ncsu.edu/Urban/repel.htm
Lastly, add another “R” to that list – “REMIND” your neighbors that mosquito management requires a community effort. Everyone needs to participate in the cleanup of their own property and common areas to remove mosquito breeding sites.

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Flies

Fungus gnats will be abundant in landscaped areas particularly in wet areas where the fungus gnat larvae often bail out of the saturated soil and large groups move in synchronously resembling a snake (see ENT/ort-29).

Particularly in flooded areas where people will be cleaning up and discarding
water-soaked carpeting, furniture, etc., these items become a  breeding site for fungus gnats and other pests. Obviously, the  ideal solution to this situation would be the complete removal of  wet and moldy debris but that likely depends on local resources to  haul them away. Spraying the materials with pesticides is not a  good option from my perspective because people may handle these materials (hopefully while wearing gloves). Similarly, wet decaying organic matter will also be an enticing food source for various “filth flies” (house flies, blow flies, etc.)  One of the major sources may be spoiled food discarded from freezers and refrigerators that lost power during  storms/flooding. Discard these materials in trash bags and try to storm them in  trash cans (with lids) until they can be picked up or taken to a  landfill or waste disposal site.

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Fire ants

Flooding will force fire ants out of the nests. The colony can form an “ant raft” which carries the queen, brood and other workers with the currents. There are a number of “fire ant raft” videos on YouTube such as this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r04kAnzgjR4

When the ants reach high ground, they can hang around until the waters recede. In the meantime, they can stay in trees or on objects above the waterline (including your house). In these instances, the best approach is to spray the mass of ants although indoors this may cause them to scatter. While this disrupts any colony structure, individuals may still sting if you accidentally lean on one or it crawls onto or under your clothing.

Along that same line – as you engage in post-storm cleanup outdoors, watch out for yellow jacket and hornet nests in the ground or in trees and shrubs.

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Termites

This is a lower priority item compared to repairs and getting the rest of your life in order, but people need  to keep termites (and termite treatments) in mind if  they’re filing an insurance claim. Flooding can displace treated soil or (more likely) deposit silt on top of the treated soil around your foundation. This latter situation creates a “bridge” for termites  to attack the house. Also, flooding in crawlspaces obviously  creates “conditions conducive to termites” and those conditions  need to be addressed as soon as possible not only because of the termite issue but also because moist crawlspaces create other  problems as well. Homeowners in flooded areas who have termite protection contracts on their homes are likely to receive phone calls or letters from their pest control service that their house may need to be retreated in order to maintain the warranty. Homeowners should contact the company to make sure that the home is *inspected*  first not simply retreated. Also, companies may blanket mail customers in a given area under the assumption that they all experienced flooding. If you did not have flooding, then the house should not require re-treatment. If homeowners have questions about being required to have their houses retreated,  they should first discuss it with the pest control company. If they’re not satisfied with the answers they receive, they should contact the NC Dept. of Agricultural and Consumer Services – Structural Pest Control & Pesticides Division – (919-733-6100).

More information about termites and other possible storm-related pest problems is available on our website at:

http://insects.ncsu.edu/Urban/storm