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Longboat Key Wednesday, Mar. 24, 2010 7 years ago

As rat race ends, insects could start to bug residents

by: Robin Hartill Managing Editor

The cold winter season has been tough on certain types of wildlife, resulting in fish kills, cold-stunned turtles and manatees with cold-stress syndrome. But the cold weather has brought other critters to the Key.

According to local pest-control companies, rat activity has increased on Longboat Key and other barrier islands this season.

Although the keys have been chilly this year, they’re still warmer than the mainland. So, rodents have sought refuge in the relative warmth on the barrier islands.

“On the barrier islands, you don’t have any natural predators and citrus is a good food source,” said Ken Micklow, of Interior Pest Control.

According to Micklow, rodent-related business has been up approximately 25% to 30% this season on the barrier islands, including Longboat Key, St. Armands Key and Siesta Key.

“The barrier islands may have a little bit of an edge because they grow more citrus fruit,” said Dr. Fred Santana, entomologist with the Sarasota County Extension Office.

At Hughes Exterminators, Ambassador Norm Mallard estimated that the company has seen a spike of approximately 20% on barrier islands.

“There’s more rodents per capita on the barrier islands (than on the mainland,” Mallard said.

The good news is that as the weather gets warmer, the rodents will likely start finding other places to nest.
The bad news: The cold, wet weather has provided an environment in which termites can thrive — and subterranean termites have been appearing on the barrier islands and the mainland.

Micklow said he expects to see more swarms of subterranean termites in the coming months.

“They’re going to be more prevalent this year due to the fact that we’ve had a moist winter after four or five years of drought,” he said.

Santana said that the extension office began receiving more reports of termites around January.

“They’ll be a serious problem all over,” he said.

Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected].

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