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A stinging downside to warm weather

The warm weather we love may come back to bite us. Wait, make that sting us.

The warm weather we love may come back to bite us. Wait, make that sting us.

“My guess is that this year will be a very good year for wasps,” said John Huber, a researcher with Natural Resources Canada.

He means good for the wasps — not for jam- and juice-loving picnickers.

The recipe for wasp dominance started in the winter.

More queen wasps die off during harsh winters or chaotic, warm-to-cold springs. During warmer winters and short, drier springs, a larger number of queens survive. That means more are ready and able to establish nests. Nice springs also mean good food news for wasps. With more flowers in bloom and other insects abounding, worker wasps have more to feed their young.

The result? Even more of them.

But we can’t blame it all on the bugs. Human behaviour is influenced by weather, too.

Brighter skies make for better picnics. The more people bring their lunch to parks, lawns and poolsides, the more people there are to notice and complain about the wasps.

Bug haters might be comforted to know that warm winters and dry springs can spell trouble for mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes emerge from standing water left over from melted snow or rain. Toronto saw less than 50 per cent of its annual average snowfall this year and February was pretty much the end of our winter. Most of the spring, with the exception of June, was unusually dry, and the April to July period has been 3 C warmer than usual.

“That’s very bad for any kid of biting fly,” Huber says.

Huber suspects mosquito populations will stay low this season. Still, he says it’s easy to guess what bugs may do but impossible to predict their behaviour with any certainty. And the bottom line is that biters and buzzers are going to be around no matter what.

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