Cockroaches and ants big winners of climate change

Creepy creepers we love to hate are marching south as climate change warms temperatures and extends breeding seasons.

Cockroaches, Argentine ants and large ladybugs were among the insects to gain a foothold in areas where they were previously rare.

Spring is the time of year when everyone notices the environment coming alive with insects, but every year the rising average temperature means that insect activity starts earlier and ends later.

Centers in the South Island, such as Nelson and Christchurch, have faced pest problems in recent years that they have never faced before.

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Last year, a Gisborne cockroach was found in southern Timaru.

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Last year, a Gisborne cockroach was found in southern Timaru.

Paul Craddock, vice president of the Pest Management Association of New Zealand, is an entomologist who knows well how some of the more nuisance insects have expanded their territory.

He said climate change gave insects longer breeding seasons, dramatically impacting numbers and viable habitats.

“Insects, being cold-blooded, are very dependent on the overall climate, will have good seasons and bad seasons, depending on the weather.

Argentine ants have enjoyed much more successful breeding seasons thanks to the warmer weather.

Paul Craddock/delivered

Argentine ants have enjoyed much more successful breeding seasons thanks to the warmer weather.

“What we’re getting is longer, warmer summers and fall and spring are generally a lot warmer.

“They start a little earlier and they last a little longer in the summer … and it also changes the potential area in which they can exist across the country.”

Craddock said some of these pests may have been in southern areas before, but more temperate seasons allowed them to thrive.

New Zealand is home to many species of cockroaches, some of which are increasingly found in households in the lower and central North Island and the upper South Island.

Native wood roaches today find the southern regions more hospitable.

Paul Craddock/delivered

Native wood roaches today find the southern regions more hospitable.

They have become a nuisance in places like Wairarapa and the Hutt Valley, although the city of Wellington has been largely spared.

Another good example of pest spread is Darwin’s ant, which has become a major problem in the South Island.

“It’s slowly expanding its reach and climate change is helping that further,” Craddock said.

Harmonia axyridis, commonly known as the harlequin ladybird, is a large coccinellide discovered in Auckland in 2016.

KELLY HODEL/STUFF/Waikato Times

Harmonia axyridis, commonly known as the harlequin ladybird, is a large coccinellide discovered in Auckland in 2016.

Sandra Speirs, the “Bug Lady”, deals with pest insects in the Tasman region and has noticed a massive increase in cockroaches and ants around the Nelson area.

“It gets worse every year.”

When she started out in pest control 12 years ago, there were virtually no cockroaches and very few ants.

“Now ants are the most, then cockroaches, then spiders, then flies.”

Another insect that has come onto the scene is the invasive Harlequin ladybug. It was first discovered in Auckland in 2016 and is now moving across the country.

It is much larger than the native variety to which most people are accustomed, and could eventually displace the local species.

Dawn Hendrikse runs a pest control company in Christchurch and said ants had become a serious problem in Canterbury.

“It’s a long-term affair, with them slowly but surely spreading across the country.”

“Over the past 10 years, our ant work has increased quite a bit, and probably in the last five years it’s gotten even faster.”

Hendrikse said that black house ants and white-footed ants were the most common among Argentine and Darwin species that started to appear recently.

It seems that cockroaches do not yet have a firm hold in the southern parts of the country, but have recently been found as far south as Timaru.

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