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Warm weather bugging us

Termites, ticks, wasps thriving in record temperatures.

The generally warm weather that has settled over the nation for months evidently has been a premature wake-up call for some of the world's less-loved species.

"For the Philadelphia area, we have seen more swarming termites, more stinging insects, more mosquitoes, ants, and midges," said Phil Pierce, an entomologist and technical service manager with Western Pest Services, which does business in he Midatlantic and New England.

The most-common complaint among consumers and peers in the business has been the abundance of termite swarms, said Pierce.

Intuitively, it makes sense that warmer weather might inspire a bug to fast-forward from over-wintering to springtime mode.

The weather is an obvious suspect. As we've mentioned, the first 15 weeks of 2012 in Philadelphia constituted the warmest such period on record.

However, the weather doesn't act in isolation, and keep in mind that we are talking about complicated and diverse species that have survived a climate bump or two over the hundreds of millions of years of their existences.

Take the case of ticks, which are having a field day this spring. But that has more do with last year's bounteous harvest of acorns, according to the National Pest Management Association.

Those acorns lured tick-bearing mice, and the hatching ticks had a Lancaster County-style buffet of mice on which to feed.

This spring, the mouse population isn't as abundant, and the ticks, now nymphs, may be looking to upgrade their diets to human blood.

Consider the termites. Pierce said that for reasons known only to them they prosper in periods when rain follows warm weather.

We've certainly had the warm weather. "But you know what," said Pierce. "We haven't hand any rain." For Philly, those aforementioned first 15 weeks were the second-driest such period of record.

"Termites," he said, "are cryptic, secretive creatures."

One other mystery of interest is whether the early insect outbreak will mean a more-robust population in the warmer months. Said Pierce, "There's a good chance we'll see it."