The recent heavy rains and humidity have made life somewhat uncomfortable for many Pettis County residents.
Those same conditions have helped the insect population in the area to thrive, making life even more uncomfortable.
“We’re definitely seeing an increase in the number of calls we’ve been receiving this spring and summer,” John Atkinson, of Son Equity Pest Management, said. “We’ve been dealing with ants, roaches and mosquitoes a lot this year.”
Atkinson said the reason for many of the increased calls have been due to Mother Nature.
“With the cooler spring and all the rain, a lot of the natural food supplies for the ants aren’t available,“ Atkinson explained. “When that happens they will look whenever they can find a source of food which typically is in a home’s cabinets or counter spaces.”
Roaches also have been moving indoors as the warm humid air has been driving the insects indoors.
For ants, roaches and most other types of crawling insects, one of the simplest solutions, according to Atkinson, is to make sure the area around the home’s foundation is free of litter or excess yard debris.
Crawling insects are not the only problem this spring.
“The rains have been washing out a lot of low spots in yards,” Atkinson said. “Anytime you have standing water it is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. There really isn’t any way to fill in all those areas that have been washed out by the rains,” Atkinson added.
There are steps homeowners can do to help prevent some of the fertile climates for mosquitoes.
“Try to eliminate as much of the standing water as possible, including emptying out any containers that can hold water,” Atkinson said. “Turn buckets upside down and don’t leave old tires lying around.
“If you have bird baths, try to change the water in them daily and always remember to give pets and outdoor animals a fresh supply of water daily,” he added.
The City of Sedalia is trying to help control the mosquito population as well.
“We’ve begun spraying for mosquitoes,” Bill Beck, public works director, said. “It’s a little controversial because some people don’t want to use any type of chemicals, but then we have a majority of people who do want to see us do this.”
Beck said city crews have already sprayed for mosquitoes once this year and have plans to repeat the process using the most environmentally safe products available.
“We spray but we also use pellets for large areas of standing water,” Beck said. “With all the different types of mosquitoes there isn’t one product that can take care of all the breeds so we try to cover the broadest areas in the safest way possible.”
Like Atkinson, Beck said homeowners can help by filling in holes and removing standing water. He also recommends keeping tall grass and weeds cut, as they are also areas where mosquitoes tend to breed.
It is only natural with an increase in the mosquito population to see an increase in another predator: bats.
“We’ve probably doubled the number of calls we’ve had on bats so far this year,” Atkinson said. “Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot we can do about them because they are a protected species until after August when the young have grown.”
According to information from the Missouri Department of Conservation, two Missouri bats, the gray bat and the Indiana bat, are listed as federally endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state endangered in Missouri.
Bats can enter a home under eves or through an open door window or chimney.
They can be caught and released, but Atkinson recommends watching your home at dusk and seeing if you can spot where they enter or leave the home.
“If you know where they are getting in the house at the best thing to do is repair the area so they can’t enter,” Atkinson said. “Again, maintaining gutters and the area around the house is very helpful in preventing any type of insect or pest from invading your home or bothering you.”
Malinda Nevils, RN, EPI Specialist for the Pettis County Health Center, has some recommendations for what to do if you are bitten or stung by a member of the insect population.
“Of course prevention is the key,” Nevils said. “You can’t stop all of them but there are things that can be done to prevent many bites and to help take care of the bite if you are bitten.”
To prevent insect bites, Nevils recommends the following:
• Cover as much exposed skin as possible, including wearing long pants, long sleeves, and even hats.
• Try to avoid being outdoors in the early morning and late evening, as this is when many insects are most active.
• Always apply sunscreen first and then any insect repellent. It is best not to apply repellents to children’s hands as they may rub their eyes and mouths, exposing sensitive areas to the chemicals.
Nevils also recommends the following if you or your child has been bitten or stung:
• Try not to scratch the area if possible; hydrocortisone and calamine lotion are effective, she has found, to relieve the urge to scratch the area.
• Check your child once they come inside after being outdoors. Look in areas including their hair and behind ears and the backs of their knees.
“Do a check of your child after they take their daily bath,” Nevils said. “It is really important that they wash and bathe daily. Keeping the area clean and dry is one of the best things to do to prevent infection.”
If there are signs of infection or a rash, or if the person has a fever or is lethargic, they should be seen by a doctor.
If all of the talk of bugs makes one think the best thing to do is to go on vacation, both Atkinson and Nevils have some advice for the trip.
“This year we’ve seen an increase in bed bugs as well,” Atkinson said. “They are real little hitch-hikers who will latch on to suitcases and clothing without being seen.”
Nevils agreed that the Health Center has seen an increase in calls about the pests as well.
“I recommend to try to not put anything on the floor when traveling,” Nevils said. “Try to keep your luggage and personal items on racks or counter tops if at all possible so there are less opportunities to have them infest your personal items.”
“I tell all of our clients that when they return home from a trip the first thing they should do is put their luggage and everything they brought on the trip into the bathtub,” Atkinson said. “The bed bugs can’t get out of the tub because they are poor climbers.
“Wash everything in hot water and then run it in a hot dryer cycle,” Atkinson added. “It’s a simple easy habit to get into that can save a lot of worry.”