Simon Plumb is a journalist for the Herald on Sunday

Snug bugs won't buzz off

Unusually warm weather has allowed far more wasps, flies and mosquitoes to survive the colder months.
Unusually warm weather has allowed far more wasps, flies and mosquitoes to survive the colder months.

Flies, mosquitoes and other irritating insects are still buzzing around in winter as record temperatures trigger an explosion in the bug population.

Unusually warm weather has allowed far more wasps, flies and mosquitoes to survive the colder months.

Viv Van Dyk, managing director of Auckland pest control company Flybusters, says she has had more call-outs than ever before to take care of insects and vermin.

"It's quite phenomenal. There's a lot more flying insects and also an increase in the number of rodents," Van Dyk said.

"We haven't had a cold snap to calm things down. With the rain and humidity, it's sending the whole insect population up which would otherwise not be very noticeable.

"This is really rare, we've been in the business 30 years and haven't had these kinds of calls before."

Mrs Van Dyk says higher numbers also means the likelihood of huge numbers come spring and summer.

"Normally people can get away without having bugs until about Christmas, but you'll see the onset much earlier this year because there's been no natural drop-off in the population over winter, at least not in the extreme that there normally is," she said.

"That means you're starting a new hot season with a lot more numbers."

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) says the first six months of 2016 have been the warmest start to a year since records began in 1909.

Average monthly temperatures between January-June have been up by at least 0.5C while for the winter month of June, all of New Zealand is experiencing temperatures more than 1C above average.

Principal scientist at Niwa Chris Brandolino says a trio of factors have caused the rise - including global warming.

"Ocean temperatures, particularly to the west, are unusually warm and have been since February, we've had a period of unusually persistent northerly winds - so coming from a warm area - and Earth is warming because of greenhouse gasses," Brandolino said.

"We think temperatures are very likely to be warmer than average for the remainder of winter and beginning of spring, for all of New Zealand."

The impact on pests has even been felt as far south as Dunedin, with warmer weather causing a "major explosion"

Pest Management Services owner David McPhee said his company had experienced a 5 per cent increase in rat control jobs on the same time last year.

Val Waldron said he had been battling a rat infestation in his Mosgiel home for the past three years, but this year was the worst.

"We don't see them but Dave [McPhee] says we must have many, many rats and he talks about them in the hundreds. This year we have had them since about February," Waldron said.

"The only thing that seems to get them is professional bait."

Mrs Van Dyk warned rats can cause home owners big issues.

"With rodents it's more about the damage they can do to wiring, plumbing and their droppings," she said.

"You can't afford to let these things build up. Even at my house, which is semi-rural, I'm baiting every week. I've never had to put out so much rodent bait.

"People underestimate how many rats and mice there are in the city, they like to live near people and they don't come in singles.

"There's always others there and you need to act if you think you've got a problem."

- NZ Herald

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