Expert: Mild Winter Leads To Oklahoma Insect, Spider Population Explosion

Wednesday, August 1st 2012, 12:03 pm
By: Richard Clark

People across the state are noticing much larger than normal populations of insects, spiders and even scorpions.  But the heat wave and drought could actually help the problem.

The reason for the population explosion?  Humans weren't the only beings that enjoyed the mild winter.

"We didn't have much of a winter this year.  Cold temps and winter moisture usually take their toll on insects and spiders," said Dr. Richard Grantham, entomologist and director of the Plant Disease & Insect Diagnostic at Oklahoma State University. 

Oklahomans are reporting a bumper crop of grasshoppers, wheel bugs, crickets, wasps and other insects, as well as the predators that feed on them, including scorpions and all kinds of spiders from harmless wolf and grass spiders to venomous black widow and brown recluse or fiddleback spiders.

Dr. Grantham says the conditions during the winter and spring were perfect for insects to thrive.

"Because so few were killed – so many survived to reproduce or many more of their eggs hatched than usual.  Couple that with a slighter warmer wetter spring and you have created the 'perfect storm' that we are seeing," he said.

Dr. Grantham has been a very busy man this year.  The good news is the heat and drought should start taking a toll on the insect population.

"My lab is running at a record pace for samples turned in by the public and county extension educators so far this year. We are just now beginning to slow down since the heat and drought have taken hold. Cross your fingers and hopefully the insects will give us a break in the coming weeks," said Dr. Grantham.