KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s mild winter probably will not cause more summer ticks and fleas than usual, but recent heavy rains may lead to earlier than usual mosquito problems, a University of Tennessee entomologist said Tuesday.
Dr. Reid Gerhardt said ticks and fleas have adapted to Tennessee’s wide-ranging winter conditions and are often affected very little by the fluctuations.
“These pest populations often are not particularly affected by severely cold winters in this area. They’ve persisted at the same populations for years when some winters are colder than others,” he said.
When there is an effect, it can be unexpected, he said.
“Sometimes in the middle of winter when it gets warm, ticks come out of hibernation and starve to death because there is nothing to eat,” Gerhardt said. “They would be better off if it were cold all winter and they stayed inactive and never came out.”
Warm weather and heavy March rains could boost mosquito populations early this year, he said.
Also, mosquito populations may grow near some rivers since Tennessee Valley Authority ended a pest control program it had conducted for decades.
“There are certain areas around the Tennessee Valley that produce bad mosquito problems,” Gerhardt said. “TVA had been keeping that under control. TVA is trying to give county governments mosquito control information, but in some of these areas mosquitoes may get very bad.”
The state this year also may see more pine bark beetles, boll weevils, and fall web worms. The pests usually live further south but often spread into Tennessee after mild winters, Gerhardt said.
Contact: Dr. Reid Gerhardt (423-974-7135)