What’s bugging you ON Labor Day?
By Mike Danahey firstname.lastname@example.org, @DanaheyECN September 1, 2013 3:18PM
Updated: October 3, 2013 6:08AM
If you’re planning any outdoor activities for Labor Day, aside from some neighbors or family members, your fun should be relatively free of another sort of pest.
According to University of Illinois Extension Entomologist Phil Nixon, because of the recent weather patterns, there should be fewer mosquitoes out and about for the holiday.
Nixon said that in a typical Illinois August, there is a wet spot toward the middle of the month which makes conditions optimal for mosquitoes to breed. This year’s dry spell should mean less standing water and less of these insects.
Still, it’s probably a good idea to keep using insect repellent. In mid-August, the Kane County Health Department reported finding West Nile Virus-carrying mosquitoes in a trap in Elgin and about a week later in a trap in St. Charles. More recently, Naperville reported finding such pests in traps set in four of that city’s parks.
Only one human case of the disease has been reported this summer in Illinois, compared to 13 in 2012.
As for what else might be bugging you, Nixon noted that this is the time of year people notice yellowjacket hornets, which should be back in their usual numbers.
They often are mistakenly called bees by those bothered by them. Yellowjackets can sting multiple times, while bees can only jab once and perish after doing so. Yellowjackets are brightly striped and smoother than honey bees which are fuzzy and are less boldly striped.
The Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (www.ipm.uiuc.edu) notes that the two common types of yellowjackets in the Midwest are the eastern variety, which usually nest underground, and German ones, which might nest in building wall voids.
The eastern type can be a problem when mowing the lawn, as the noise and vibrations of a mower can stir the nest, which worker yellowjackets will aggressively defend.
Yellowjackets pollinate plants, feed on other insects and dead animals, and serve as food for other animals. They scavenge uncovered garbage cans and swarm for sweets.
The IPM Web site states the wasps also are out this time of year and like the hornets are attracted to bright, flowery clothing and floral scented perfumes. Overripe fruit from gardens and orchards also gets their attention.
Nests grow until autumn, and according to the IPM site, the dwellings might hold as many as 5,000 workers and may measure up to four feet in diameter.
While some may think they are seeing more flies lately, Nixon said that is due to the hot weather. Like humans, flies are looking for cooler climes. So if they sense a door opening into an air conditioned home or a comfortable basement, they will buzz to enter.
Spiders also can become more noticeable this time of year, though Nixon said he hasn’t noticed an overabundance of them.
“Spiders mature in the late summer to early fall. Their larger size then makes them more noticeable,” Nixon said.
According to Nixon, with this year’s soggy spring, many types of the insects died of fungal diseases, which thrive in damp conditions.
This adversely affected butterfly populations, Nixon said, but the species seemed to have recovered during the course of the summer.
“The spring conditions likely reduced the prey availability to the spiders, causing them to grow more slowly. When the rains stopped, the weather was cool. All cold-blooded animals, including spiders and insects, develop slower under those conditions,” Nixon said.
Some people also have reported seeing more ticks this year in the Fox Valley. The Illinois Department of Public Health web site notes that the American dog tick is the most the most common tick found throughout Illinois. It usually feeds on dogs and other small mammals, but will bite people and can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia, according to the health department.
The blacklegged tick, also know as the “deer tick,” is most common in northern Illinois and around river corridors. These ticks can transmit Lyme and other diseases, the web site says, although they and the dog tick usually need to be attached for at least four hours before they can transmit an illness.
Nixon said that with the hot, relatively dry weather, the growth of both spiders and insects has caused them to appear to be more abundant and certainly more obvious.
Nixon explained that many species of spiders lay eggs that hatch in late summer to early fall. The newly hatched spiderlings spin out fine webbing that catches on the wind, carrying them to new areas. These floating webs are so numerous in the fall that it is considered to be a characteristic of “Indian summer.”
“We are starting to see these fine, floating webs characteristic of baby spiders. They will become much more numerous as the fall progresses,” he noted.
And that should make for a fine Halloween.