Pests: What to watch for this season


PJ Liesch, Extension entomologist
Department of Entomology
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Science
Twitter: @WIBugGuy

PJ Liesch, University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension entomologist, emphasized the need for Wisconsinites to take proper care and exercise smart practices when outside and dealing with insects this season. In addition to the common problem of mosquitoes this summer, Liesch also emphasized the need for precautions against tick populations.

“We’ve had good conditions in terms of rainfall so we’ll see a big batch of what we call our floodwater mosquitoes,” said Liesch, director of the UW–Madison Insect Diagnostic Lab.

According to Liesch and other entomologists at UW-Madison, Wisconsin is home to at least fifty-six different species of mosquitoes. The good news is that the majority do not bite or pursue humans, instead they prefer birds, amphibians, and other mammals – the white-tailed deer being a popular target.

Liesch highlighted the importance of taking precautions against mosquitoes and ticks because of the health risks that they can pose. While not widespread, the transmission of West Nile virus, La Crosse virus, and Jamestown Canyon virus is possible through mosquito bites. Approximately fifty cases of West Nile Virus were reported by Wisconsinites in 2017.

In order to prevent viruses from mosquitoes and Lyme disease from ticks, Liesch laid out multiple avenues of prevention.

First and foremost, Liesch said that long-sleeved clothing can make all the difference. “That way we have a physical barrier between us and those pests, so it’s harder for them to get to our skin and physically bite,” Liesch said. He also emphasized the importance of properly using protection and precautions, such as EPA-registered insect repellents.  

Liesch also warned against relying too heavily on homemade remedies and recipes pulled from social media, saying “They may smell great, but when it comes down to it, they probably have very little repellency against mosquitoes and ticks, and if they do, it’s probably very short-lived.”

While discussing the tick and mosquito populations that we might see this summer in Wisconsin, Liesch mentioned that the extremely cold temperatures we felt in January and February would not have a large effect on insect populations this season.

As a final tip for Wisconsinites to keep safe from bites and transmission of diseases this summer, Liesch said that if you know of a heavily populated area for mosquitoes or ticks, it would be best to simply avoid the area.

More information on Wisconsin’s insect populations, safety precautions, and other facts about insects can be found at the UW-Madison’s Department of Entomology website.

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