ST. GEORGE — What’s bugging people in Southern Utah this spring? Thankfully, not the Asian giant hornets that have shown up in Washington State. Due to the dry climate, Utah State University Arthropod Diagnostician Zach Schumm doesn’t expect the Asian giant hornet to establish itself here.
“There are very small concerns about Asian giant hornets all throughout the state of Utah,” Schumm said.
Asian giant hornets typically don’t attack humans unless they feel threatened. What makes them truly pests are their attacks on honey bees. Because honey bees are an important pollinator species in the world, decimating this population could be harmful to crops and native plants.
What is potentially harmful to people are Africanized honey bees. They buzzed into Utah in 2008. This particular insect is a hybrid between an African honey bee and a European honey bee. This hybrid bee can be a little aggressive, but Schumm said they aren’t nearly as dangerous as some reports have indicated.
“There are very few reports of attacks from Africanized honey bees,” Schumm said. “They aren’t really common compared to the other European honey bees that we have here in Utah.”
One annoyance Utah residents have to contend with every year are ticks. While there aren’t a lot of ticks in Utah compared to climates with more moisture, they can be an issue for people and pets. The most common species found in Utah is the Rocky Mountain wood tick. The western black-legged Tick can also be found here. Western black-legged ticks are responsible for spreading Lyme disease, although Schumm said this is a very rare occurrence in Utah.
“While we can find these ticks here, it’s really uncommon to actually have the disease transmit to you,” Schumm said.
Tick season happens when the snowmelt begins in the spring and continues until about mid-July. Ticks attach themselves through a process called questing. Basically, they hang out in bushes like gamble oak and sagebrush. When humans or animals brush up against the bushes, the ticks attach themselves.
Ticks secret a numbing agent so bites are painless. Diseases are transmitted while ticks are feeding which is why it’s important to remove them. The Centers for Disease Control advises using a fine-tipped pair of tweezers to remove a tick from the skin’s surface. Steady, even pressure is required so parts of the tick don’t break off and stay in the skin. Ticks can be flushed down the toilet or placed in alcohol and then wrapped in tape for disposal.
Just like humans, pests want to be inside where the food and air conditioning are. Bug sprayers in Southern Utah are hard at work eradicating the insects that show up this time of year. Braydon Bergeson, co-owner of Bug Blasters Pest Control, said all the new construction in Southern Utah is unearthing a lot of insects. These home invaders include ornamental and American cockroaches, spiders, earwigs, crickets, ants and more.
Some Southern Utah residents are contending with clover mites this spring. These pinhead-sized pests are reddish-brown in color and show up in droves. Although clover mites don’t harm humans or homes, Bergeson said they can be a real annoyance.
“Normal treatments usually don’t take care of it,” Bergeson said. “You have to do a specialty treatment with a miticide.”
No bugs on our mugs
Here’s some good news: Southern Utah residents don’t have to worry about their pets getting fleas. These little buggers prefer moist, shady cool places. Bergeson said that’s one less worry for pet owners.
“Fleas need a certain amount of humidity to reproduce,” Bergeson said. “Because of the dry air in Southern Utah and the desert, we just don’t see those issues here.”
The air in Southern Utah may abuzz with the sound of insects doing their work, but that shouldn’t be considered a bad thing. These little buggers pollinate plants, cycle nutrients, disperse seeds and serve as food for other populations. Due to the dry climate, there aren’t a lot of bugs here compared to other parts of the country.
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