Pests getting worse

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Special to the County Compass
tiger-mosquito

The Asian Tiger Mosquito is one mean and nasty blood-sucking critter intent on destroying the outdoor experience!

As detailed in a new National Wildlife Federation report, climate change is posing growing challenges to our outdoor experience, particularly in the southeast.

Ticked Off: America’s Outdoor Experience and Climate Change analyzes the current science available on climate change and how warmer temperatures are giving a leg up to pests like ticks, mosquitoes, fire ants, jellyfish and poison ivy.

Specific Pest Examples


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  • Deer Ticks: These carriers of Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and other illnesses will be more widespread. Warmer winters are allowing expansion of the range of deer tick population faster than projected, increasing the exposure of Americans to ticks and raising the risk of Lyme disease. And it’s not just humans at risk – our pets can also contract some of these same diseases.
  • Fire Ants: Currently spread across the entire Southeast, from Texas through North Carolina to Florida, fire ants could advance about 80 miles northward and expand in total area by 21 percent as climate change makes new areas more suitable for their survival. Already, at least 57 species of crops and other cultivated plants have been damaged by fire ants, resulting in losses in crops like corn, sorghum, soybeans, citrus trees, okra, potatoes and pecan trees.
  • Jellyfish: Jellyfish are morecommon in warmer years and are projectedto become more abundant as our climate warms. Currently, there are about 150 million jellyfish stings globally every year, but with a disrupted climate, there will be many more.
  • Stink Bugs: In the central Atlantic region, the brown marmorated stink bug population has exploded in the past decade, invading fields, forests, crops and homes. This insect feeds on many popular backyard garden crops like tomatoes, beans, berries, asparagus, sweet corn, peppers and more. Brown marmorated stink bugs can damage and destroy produce, interrupt normal fruit development and cause rotting. Longer summers increase the numbers of generations each year.
  • Tiger Mosquito: Asian tiger mosquitoes can transmit 30 different viruses to humans, including West Nile virus. In a warming climate, these insects will emerge earlier in the spring and produce more generations per year. Warmer temperatures are conducive to diseases typical of the tropics and carried by the tiger mosquito, such as dengue. Currently inhabiting less than 20 percent of the Northeast, by the end of the century, areas favorable to the tiger mosquito could double in the region, and the number of people facing exposure could also double to about 30 million.

Q&A

All we have to worry about are ticks? And you want to destroy the economy for that?

This report looks at just one slice of how climate change is already impacting America, by giving a helping hand to harmful pests. The National Wildlife Federation has also issued in-depth reports on other climate impacts, from more intense wildfires to flooded coastal habitats.

Isn’t this exaggerating/scaring?

This report details readily accessible, uncontroversial science. The National Wildlife Federation works hard to connect people, especially children, with nature and we’ve worked hard here to balance an honest assessment of the risks with the huge benefits to our health and wellbeing that come with time spent outdoors.

Aren’t you just talking about invasives, not climate change?

Climate change is affecting many native species of these pests: jellyfish, winter ticks, deer ticks, poison ivy and algae. Global warming is certainly just one of many factors giving a leg up to some invasive species. Habitat loss for native plants, fish and wildlife is also a major concern. We should be tackling all of the factors helping invasive species.

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