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DRC/Al Key

Bug invasion

Profile image for By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer

The first half of the year has been warm and wet in North Texas.

Just the way bugs like it.

Along with reports of the early emergence of West Nile-infected mosquitoes, North Texans have been reporting puddles of crickets, clouds of grasshoppers, many millipedes and range-roaming, love-hungry tarantulas, according to both amateur and professional bug-watchers.

“It’s been an interesting year for bugs,” said Mike Merchant, urban entomologist with the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Dallas.

The early emergence of the mosquito has been very unusual, Merchant said.

Along with confirmations in several North Texas counties, the West Nile virus has been confirmed in mosquitoes in El Paso County, and in several counties in Central Texas and along the Texas coast.

In the three counties where human cases have been identified, Denton County appears to have identified the disease sooner and more often, with six human cases confirmed so far this year. All the victims are expected to recover, health officials have said. 

The crickets also emerged early.

“The wet June triggered the cricket flights,” Merchant said.

Crickets can be smelly and troublesome when they collect inside buildings. Crickets don’t pose a health threat to humans, he said.

“Birds like crickets,” Merchant said.

Despite their ferocious appearance, tarantulas are shy creatures, he said. A tarantula bite is on the order of a bee sting, according to Merchant, who wrote in June about the arachnids’ frequent appearances this year on his blog, http://insectsinthecity.blogspot.com.

A warm, dry winter means fewer fungal diseases that kill over-wintering grasshopper larvae. But rainfall is so localized that he’s long given up trying to predict where grasshoppers will be a problem, Merchant said.

Some Denton County residents have reported problems with grasshoppers, according to Janet Laminack, horticulture agent in the Denton County office of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

“We’re really seeing grasshoppers right now — on farms and homescapes,” Laminack said.

Residents are also reporting a new scale pest on crape myrtles and millipedes coming into the house, she said.

When it gets dry, as it has in recent weeks, bugs will come into homes to look for water, Laminack said.

While the expanding insect ranges of some tropical pests and disease-carrying mosquitoes can be a problem, some insect-lovers are seeing an upside to the bug-friendly conditions, Merchant said.

“Butterfly enthusiasts are seeing tropical species not normally found here,” he said.

 

Staff writer Matthew Zabel contributed to this report.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her e-mail address is pheinkel-wolfe@dentonrc.com.