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Low Insect Populations May be Drought Related

16 May 2013

US - Drought and up-and-down temperatures are affecting insect behavior – everything from honeybee behavior to delayed emergence of pests, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service entomologist.

“Prolonged drought and these cold snaps we’re seeing do have impacts on the food web, and that impacts bees swarming and delayed emergence of some pests such as pecan nut casebearer,” said Dr Charles Allen, AgriLife Extension entomologist and integrated pest management coordinator, San Angelo.

Honeybee swarming is not uncommon, Dr Allen said. Bees swarm — migrate en masse — when there’s not enough plant growth and nectar supply in an area to support a colony. Part of the hive and new queen leaves to start a new colony elsewhere, where there is hopefully a larger food supply.

However, Allen said he has received reports from other AgriLife Extension entomologists around the state that indicates swarming is more prevalent this spring. The exact cause is unknown, but it’s more likely drought-related than due to the up-and-down swings in temperature.

“This week especially, calls have been coming in to AgriLife Extension offices in the Dallas area for help coping with the sudden bee invasion,” wrote Dr Mike Merchant, AgriLife Extension urban entomologist, Dallas, on his blog, “Insects in the City.”

“According to Shelly Spearman of the AgriLife Extension office in Rockwall County, her office is getting one to two calls a day about bees,” he said.

Dr Merchant said spring is prime time for bee swarming, so the increase could be one of perception.

He also noted that mosquitoes are already active in many areas. In Richardson and Dallas, city and county spray trucks are already spraying due to extremely early detections of West Nile virus in the local mosquito population.

“This is very early for this disease to show up and is not a good sign,” Dr Merchant said. “It’s possible that we’re just looking harder for the disease after last year’s epidemic year.”

TheCropSite News Desk

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