Today is the first day of spring, which means longer days, warmer temperatures and — for many Central Texas households — bug invasions.
Gene Cantwell, service technician at Killeen Pest Control, said this is the beginning of the high season for exterminators, and local insect populations are already turning up in big numbers.
“Usually the first of April, when we get a good rain, we really kick into high gear,” Cantwell said.
“We’re going to be really busy probably up to October.”
Cantwell said he and his seven colleagues at Killeen Pest Control average about 10 to 18 visits per day and often are called out on weekends or for emergency visits.
So far the biggest threat was a recent surge of carpenter ants, a winged black or black-and-red ant that lives in dead trees or dead wood, which arrived in the area last week.
Carpenter ants eat dead wood and have satellite colonies that span hundreds of yards, often invading multiple houses, Cantwell said.
“Wood eaters do billions of dollars of damage each year, more than hurricanes and earthquakes,” Cantwell said.
Insecticides, such as the variety Cantwell sprayed around a house Tuesday in Killeen, will last 14 to 25 days, and most of their customers receive monthly inspections, Cantwell said.
Insects have built-in biological calendars, which sense the seasons through sunlight and heat, said Lyle Zoeller, the Coryell County Extension agent.
“A lot of insects are daylight sensitive,” Zoeller said.
“The daylight sparks more activity in animals and insects.”
The change in seasons also affects the plant growth cycles, drawing insects out to feed on the lush green of spring growth.
“They are coming out now to gather up food to store for the winter again,” Zoeller said.
Insects such as ants and grub worms burrow deep in the soil during the winter, avoid the freezing winter temperatures on the surface.
“Now that it’s spring, they are starting to move higher in the dirt and build their mounds up closer to the surface,” Zoeller said.
Although they have not become a problem yet, Zoeller said it is important to drain standing water around houses to eliminate the breeding grounds for mosquitoes, which can carry deadly diseases.
“It’s time now to get ahead of it because the future populations depend on the current populations,” Zoeller said.
“If we can reduce the population now, it will reduce the population in the future.”