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Drought Hurts Some Insects and Helps Others

Photo by Prashant Maxsteel

The drought presents both good and bad news for Austinites struggling with insect and pest populations. Ants and mosquitos are in decline right now, while spider mites and chinch bugs are thriving.  

Texas Agri-Life entomologist Wizzie Brown says that hot dry conditions are good for some insect populations and bad for others. She says the number of fire ants at ground level and mosquito populations drop during droughts.

“With fire ants, when they’re in drought conditions - it’s not that they’re gone,” Brown said. “They’re still there. It’s just that we tend not to see the mounds that we normally would see. They dig further into the ground to be closer to the water table. ”

After a heavy rain, Brown says, the mounds will start to pop back up on the surface again.

As for mosquitos, they lay their eggs in water, so the lack of water prevents mosquito populations from reaching the levels they can in a wet summer. However, Brown warns that mosquitos can still take advantage of puddles, bird baths and other standing water to nest.

Arthopods, a category that includes insects and things like scorpions and spiders, are often driven indoors by droughts because they’re looking for food, water and cooler temperatures. They are more likely to enter your home during weather conditions like we are experiencing.

Still other kinds of insects, like chinch bugs and spider mites, thrive in hot, dry conditions so you are more likely to have to deal with them in a drought.

Kelsey Sheridan is a news intern at KUT. She currently studies religion and journalism at Northwestern University.
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