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Saturday March 17, 2018

Pests raise concerns for Lodi agriculture, pets and homes

By John Bays/News-Sentinel Staff Writer

Spring is in the air, along with all the beauty — and annoyance — that may come with it.

Along with fresh plant growth, spring also brings an increase in pest activity, according to Darren Van Stenwyk, technical director for Clark Pest Control.

“At this point in time, we’re going to start seeing ants because it’s warming up, and we’ll begin to see mosquitoes in the next couple of weeks,” Van Stenwyk said.

To prevent ant infestations, Van Stenwyk advises homeowners to keep everything as clean as possible, ensuring that no food is left out either in the home or outside. Ants will begin to trail in search of moisture as the weather warms up, he added, with freshly-watered lawns presenting one of their water sources.

Blooming plants can also attract honeydew-producing insects such as aphids and whiteflies, Van Stenwyk said, which he predicts will begin to establish themselves in the next few days. HPIs secrete a sugary liquid knows as honeydew, he explained, which in turn attracts ants.

“Ants like HPIs. They tend them and farm them for their honeydew, so being proactive in controlling HPIs in your yard now will help take care of ants in the long run,” Van Stenwyk said.

To prevent mosquito infestations, Van Stenwyk advises people to take great care to ensure there is no standing water around their homes, especially rainwater. Standing water should either be used to water plants or drained away from homes, he added.

“Another thing we dealt with in the winter that we’ll continue to deal with in the spring are rodents, specifically roof rats. People are definitely going to be hearing them in attics because they will be more active as the weather gets warmer,” Van Stenwyk said.

Springtime can also increase the risk of fleas and ticks for pets, according to Amanda Mayer, a registered veterinary technician and manager of VCA Oakwood Veterinary Hospital.

Mayer recommends year-round flea and tick prevention for pet owners, advising them to use oral tablets instead of topical ointments whenever possible.

“Orals typically work better because they don’t wash off, they can last for up to 30 days. We recommend year-round prevention because it doesn’t get cold enough to kill fleas in Northern California, surprisingly,” Mayer said.

Although many at-home flea treatments are available, Mayer advises pet owners to take their pets to a veterinarian if they are infected with ticks, which can spread lyme disease.

“Tick removal is always difficult, so we always recommend that you bring your pets in so we can get all of the ticks out. If you’re unable to remove the tick’s head buried under the skin, it’s body will grow back,” Mayer said.

With the cherry harvest approaching, fruit flies are a top concern for the agriculture community, according to Kamal Bagri, assistant agricultural commissioner for San Joaquin County.

“They multiply very, very fast in cherries, and growers are very much concerned because fruit is not viable once it has been compromised,” Bagri said.

The agricultural commission has also been meeting with Lodi grape growers because of vine mealybugs, which transmit viruses in grapes, Bagri said.

Brown marmorated stink bugs are a newer pest, with the agricultural commission receiving reports of the bugs in urban trees, Bagri said.

Although the commission does not yet have a system in place to track the stink bugs, Bagri explained, they have become the latest pest of concern for San Joaquin County. No other exotic pests have been reported in recent months, she added.

“Our office tracks for Asian citrus psyllids, European grapevine moths and exotic fruit flies,” Bagri said.

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