Heat safety: Stories meant to help protect New York’s Very Own

Warm temperatures bringing increased amount of pests

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ALPHABET CITY, Manhattan— With the highest average temperatures ever for November and December, an unwelcome side effect for the Tri State is an unusually high level of bugs and other pests.

Even on days like Tuesday, when parts of the metro area saw wintry conditions early in the morning, nowhere in the region has seen a hard freeze all season. That's resulted, for now, in an unusual abundance of some animals that most people would prefer were not around at all.

"Without a hard freeze, you'll have an interesting year for insects," said entomologist Amy Berkov, PhD, in an interview in her local community garden. "I think you'll have things early and certain populations will probably burgeon," Berkov, a City College insect expert, said. "Some of that will be pleasant, and some of it won't."

Part of that difference, Berkov told PIX11 News, has to do with plant life, that insects use for food and which they also pollinate.

The very unseasonably warm weather of the last eight weeks has seen many plants that don't typically blossom until spring, or which stay alive until autumn, be green and robust. They're expected to remain so, straight through to New Year's.

"You're not supposed to be seeing roses, or marigolds, or forsythia," Dr. Berkov said, while pointing to the variety of unusually unseasonal flowers flourishing in her community garden.

She said that even though we're seeing an unusual proliferation of both plants and animals right now, there's a significant risk that by the two appearing prematurely, their coexistence may be out of balance.

In other words, a plant may bloom at a premature time that does not match the premature appearance of its natural pollinating insects.

When that happens, said Berkov, plants are "unlikely to set fruit. Unlikely to make seeds," and, therefore, they're less likely to grow anew.

The appearance outside of prematurely blossoming plants and the unusual presence of some insects there, are also an indication of a weather-affected situation indoors.

"Last year this time, we were able to sit around and clean up shop," said Kevin Carrillo, a senior field inspector for an extermination company. "This year, it's still boots on the ground every day. We're out hitting the restaurants every day. So are the mice and the cockroaches."

Carrillo is a manager at M&M Pest Control, one of the city's busiest high-end exterminators. Thanks to the unusually mild weather, he said that demand for his company's services is even higher than usual.

"Bedbugs, meal moths, clothing moths, carpet beetles, drugstore beetles, centipedes, silverfish, you name it."

Both he and Dr. Berkov said that the bitter cold that results in a hard freeze also reduces pest infestations. Berkov said that she expects a hard freeze sometime this season, based on her extensive experience with both insects and plants. In addition to holding a doctorate in entomology, she also has significant training in botany.

However, she is neither a meteorologist nor a climatologist. Still, the Farmers Almanac, is predicting deep freezes this winter, even though none has occurred so far.

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