Insect Update: When Will The First Mosquitoes Appear?

Air Date:
Heard On The Larry Meiller Show

Judith Siers-Poisson learns when the first batch of mosquitoes will make their presence known in Wisconsin. Plus, early spring treatments for ornamental plants, and advice for dealing with spring ants in the house.

Featured in this Show

  • Knowing Ants’ Food Preferences Are Key To Control

    No matter how clean an apartment or house is kept, chances are that ants will find their way indoors. Once they get in, it can be very difficult to get them back out.

    Entomologist Phil Pellitteri, a distinguished faculty associate emeritus and the recently retired head of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Insect Diagnostic Lab, said that pavement ants and odorous house ants are two of the common species found indoors.

    The most important factor in knowing how to combat an ant infestation is to know what their food preferences are, he said.

    “It’s either going to be sweet things, or it’s going to be oil-based, and more protein,” Pellitteri said.

    Short of presenting them with a menu, how can someone tell? Pellitteri said to take some cooking oil and some honey and put each on a piece of wax paper. Then, place the samples in an area where there has been ant activity. Pellitteri said that sometimes, that activity is higher at night. The ants will go to one or the other, and their preference will be clear, although he did add that some will eat both.

    The next step is to get bait that is customized for the correct food preference.

    “The whole concept of baits is that they’ll pick up the product and feed it to each other, but more importantly, to the queen,” he said.

    Especially for multiple nests or those that are hard to find, it’s critical that the ants do the work themselves, he said.

    Pellitteri said that the hardware store ant bait products might not be the most effective, and shopping on the Internet to make sure that the product is targeted to that type of ants might be a better approach. Because there might be less demand for the more targeted baits because people don’t know which to use, they aren’t marketed as widely.

    If after a food taste test, it still isn’t clear which type of ant is present, Pellitteri said that sending a sample to the Insect Diagnostic Lab is also an option.

  • Mosquitoes Will Be Here Sooner Than People Think

    Weather in Wisconsin can be quite extreme at times and can go from one extreme to another in a very short amount of time. While some parts of the state are expecting new snowfalls this week, the truth is that spring is on its way. But with warmer weather come some pesky insects, including mosquitoes.

    Entomologist Phil Pellitteri, a Distinguished Faculty Associate Emeritus and the recently retired director of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Insect Diagnostic Lab, said that there are 54 species of mosquitoes in Wisconsin, and he has observed them returning as early as January.

    Pellitteri explained that “the mosquitoes that you see at the first warm-up date are the species that over-winter as adults, which are not the dominant mosquitoes. So, technically speaking, if you get a sunny 55-degree day, you can find mosquitoes outside.”

    But it’s a different story for the mosquitoes that torment people throughout the summer. Those species, Pellitteri explained, “are either the snow-melt mosquitoes or the summer flood water mosquitoes. And in both cases, those are eggs right now that are kind of frozen.”

    It will take a more extended warm-up and available water for them to really develop. Pellitteri said that Wisconsin usually hits that very close to Memorial Day. In a particularly warm spring, like the state had in 2012, it could be a few days early, he said, and in a particularly cool spring, it might be a few days late.

    Pellitteri wrote a guide to mosquito control, which is available as a download here.

Episode Credits

  • Judith Siers-Poisson Host
  • Judith Siers-Poisson Producer
  • Phil Pellitteri Guest