Spiders, ants and centipedes – oh my!
If you think you’ve seen more creepy crawlies trying to get into your house this summer, you haven’t imagined it. Texas entomologists say this year’s intense summer temperatures are driving greater numbers of critters indoors as they search for cooler air and water sources.
Texas is facing what could be one of the hottest summers ever. Along with the heat, the region is facing drought, increased wildfires and low aquifers.
Those same temperatures are why there are more critters in general; an early spring resulted in more insect breeding at a faster rate, said Molly Keck, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension integrated pest management program specialist for the San Antonio area.
“One thing we see because of the heat is an increased rate at which insects reproduce,” the entomologist said. “That’s why we see higher populations of ants and termites and why we see them swarming earlier than usual.”
The reason these critters crawl in is because they just follow the currents of cool air and the smell of water, Keck said. They don’t understand that they made it “in,” she suggested, or what that means for a homeowner or renter; they just find it more welcoming.
The best way to keep them at bay is to make sure your home’s cracks and crevices are sealed, Keck added. Anywhere you can see light coming through or where a dime will fit, the creepy crawlies can find their way in, she said. Best practices include keeping your home clean and dry and putting away sugar, Keck added.
Because of this summer’s intense heat, times like dusk, dawn and night will be particularly busy times for insects, said Renee Holmes, an entomology doctoral student at Texas A&M University who specializes in fire ant control.
To avoid dehydration, critters like ants and other insects wait until it’s a little cooler to move and forage, Holmes said.
“On the other hand, you’re going to see a little less mosquito species this summer,” Holmes said, because they don’t have enough water sources. “But…many beneficial insects will also die in the process.”
This could have long-term negative consequences for animal species, such as Mexican free-tailed bats, which eat mosquitoes, Holmes noted, although data needs to be collected to see if that’s the case, she added.
Bugs are very flexible creatures, Keck said. While we may feel the intense heat of this summer more than in years past, it’s just another warm day for insects. Texas critters are extremely adaptable to extreme heat and cold because the weather in the state can be quite unpredictable, Keck said. So it’s interesting that they may be less affected by global warming than we are, she added.
“Because climate change will be slow and gradual, local insects are likely to change and adapt,” Keck said. “Drastic changes — they regularly have these drastic changes here in San Antonio, so these gradual increases aren’t going to affect them as much.”
Wild animals, on the other hand, may be less flexible. Drought and heat like this summer are especially hard on local deer, birds, squirrels, raccoons, snakes and lizards, said Lynn Cuny, founder and president of Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation. Cuny said she’s seen a higher number of calls this summer as people seek advice on how to handle local wildlife.
If you come across a wild animal in your house or garage, Cuny suggested you gently send the animal outside or call for help. She made the same point as Keck: Animals don’t know the difference between inside and outside; they are just trying to survive.
“They don’t want to be around people,” Cuny said. “They’re just looking for food and water.”
Live traps should be avoided, Cuny advised. Summer is the breeding season for many Texas animals, and live traps often capture a nursing mother, which if moved, means death to her offspring. Roe deer seen alone are often left by the mother while she eats, and they should be left alone, Cuny said; the mother usually returns within 12 to 14 hours.
Anyone who wants to help these animals can put water in a small rubber tub away from where their children and pets play, Cuny said. Adding sticks and leaves to the bath allows animals like praying mantis and lizards to get a drink without drowning, she noted. Food shouldn’t be left out, though, as it can make animals too familiar with humans, she said.
“If you leave water out, make sure to shade it,” she said. “Otherwise it could get too hot for the animals to drink.”