John Weekes

John Weekes is a reporter for APNZ.

Invasion of the body scratchers

Owen Stobart is battling wasps earlier than usual this year. Photo / Doug Sherring
Owen Stobart is battling wasps earlier than usual this year. Photo / Doug Sherring

Pests and bugs are buzzing at the prospect of a warm Kiwi summer.

Niwa forecasts the previously warm three months will continue with another warm quarter, as near- or above-average temperatures are expected to continue across the country.

Auckland Museum entomologist John Early predicts Asian paper wasps, sandflies, Argentine ants, Gisborne cockroaches and carpet beetles will be especially frequent callers this summer.

Carpet beetle larvae eat carpet and fibres such as silk and wool.

Wasps are also proliferating. "The Asian paper wasp is another pest you are going to have to be vigilant about if you want to have monarch butterflies this year, because caterpillars will fall prey to them."

Flybusters managing director Viv Van Dyk said Asian paper wasps were usually harmless to people but could trigger severe allergic reactions.

Argentine ants damage local ecosystems and are well established in the North Island.

"Argentine ants form super colonies with more than one queen, and it's even been suggested that all of the ants in Auckland may be part of one huge colony network," Early said.

Sandflies were perennial summer pests and would be at holiday beaches in force this summer.

However, he said the so-called Gisborne cockroach had been unfairly maligned.

"They are not harmful and they are not disease transmitters like the American and German cockroaches, despite what people usually think," Early said. "There's no reason why you couldn't pick one up in your hand if you're fast enough to catch it."

Pet Gisborne roaches can be fed carrots or mushrooms. They typically inhabit wood piles, bark chips or live under pot plants.

Other roaches will soon be moving from winter havens in cafes and restaurants in search of summer homes.

Aces Pest Control director Owen Stobart said wasp nests were already widespread. Usually his firm dealt with wasps from mid-December but he was already battling wasp infestations this week.

Stobart said ants and cockroaches provided year-round work but other insects created additional work over summer.

He said people waking up with bites on their skin should keep an open mind.

"Fleas, bedbugs and mosquitoes have similar bites - they look the same and you don't feel them biting. Bedbugs are on the rise as they are resistant to traditional pesticides."

Pestrol managing director John Fennell said rodent numbers were also booming, with high sales of anti-rat products and possum trap sales.

Australia is already being blamed for a boom in mosquito numbers.

Fennell said bushfires forced mosquitoes out of their usual habitat before prevailing winds carried them to the South Island.

- Herald on Sunday

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