Gardens have been growing like crazy with all the rain.
But combined with a cooler spring and a mild winter, the rain may also have helped out some pests, including mosquitoes, ticks and hungry rabbits.
“There’s a lot more ticks,” said Adair Weingart of Lenexa, a Johnson County K-State Research and Extension master gardener. “My fellow master gardeners have told me they’ve gotten home and found as many as 10 ticks on them.”
Roman Ganta, professor at Kansas State University and director of its Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Diseases, said ticks are beneficiaries of the humid weather and saturated ground.
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“Humidity keeps them alive — 95 to 98 percent is ideal for them,” Ganta said.
And heavy rain saturating the earth forces ticks up to drier ground, bringing them closer to potential hosts.
As for mosquitoes, “It’s going to be atrocious this year,” said Frank Livingston, an Overland Park retiree and gardener. “Any standing water available, they started breeding in it.”
Lougene Marsh, director of the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment, agreed.
“When we have an extremely wet spell, that increases the habitat where mosquitoes breed and reproduce, and that means more mosquitoes,” she said.
And hungry rabbits? Livingston’s proof is his devoured hostas.
“The babies will munch on anything they can, and the adults are habitual so they’ll come back every night if they find a good place to eat,” Livingston said.
Bill Graham, a Missouri Department of Conservation spokesman, said rabbit population levels vary widely neighborhood to neighborhood, depending on predators and the food supply. But that doesn’t replace Livingston’s plants.
“It seems like I’ve got more rabbit problems now than I’ve had in the last 12 or 13 years,” he said.
Without predators, rabbits are difficult to combat, said Dennis Patton, a horticulturalist for K-State Research and Extension in Olathe.
But there are ways to fend off the insects.
Patton recommended wearing long sleeves, using mosquito repellent products and limiting time outside.
Mosquito bites can cause complications, including West Nile virus, which affected 29 people in Missouri and 91 in Kansas in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Ticks also can be dangerous vectors for infections, including Lyme disease, which affects more than 300,000 Americans per year, according to the CDC.
Ganta emphasized the same three steps that Patton did for mosquitoes, adding that people should do a body search when they come inside to check for ticks tagging along on clothes.
“Ticks are not in a hurry for their blood meal,” he said.