"Year of the Mozzie" Daily Mail July 13th 2006

Ideal breeding weather helps insect army to invade homes and gardens

A wet May followed by a warm June and July have created the ideal breeding conditions for all types of creepy-crawlies. Mosquitoes are leading the attack with the gardeners reporting many more bites from them than usual. Also making the most of the bad weather are ants, ticks and horseflies, which carry a vicious sting.

Boots the chemist says sales of insect repellent, bite cream and fly spray are up 30% on last year. Superdrug reports that its customers are buying more than twice the usual amount of bitecream. Both firms blame the rash of bites on a combination of a surge of insects and people wearing fewer clothes in the good weather. Andrew Salisbury, of the RHS, told Amateur Gardener Magazine:

"The biggest influence for populations of mosquitoes is the mass of standing water around following the extremely wet May.
"Puddles, knotholes in trees, even the linings of abandoned car tyres will hold water where those insects can breed. The rain came at just the right time.

Experts estimate there are now more than 15 billion bugs for every square mile of land. Spiders, butterflies, beetles and ladybirds are out in force along with fleas and lice. Greenfly are booming too - with the warm weather encouraging the aphid to speed up its already short breeding cycle. Autumn is expected to bring a burst of large spiders. Waspsare expected to be a problem at the end of summer when the hunt for food leads to their well-organised colonies falling apart.

Matt Shardlow, off the charity Buglife, said:

Suddenly,they go from becoming harmless and discreet animals to going after your rotting fruit, and licking up the sugar on your kid's ice cream.

The end of the summer will be a bumper time for daddy long-legs, which usually plague householders for around four weeks from mid-August. The infestation of insects does, however, have advantages for some species and birds such as sparrows are expected to be the main beneficiaries. A shortage of insects, partly caused by gardeners spurning plants and shrubs for patios numbers of the once familiar birds halving in built-up areas in the last 20 years.

Domestic bumblebees, meanwhile, face being wiped out by foreign varieties brought in to pollinate plants in commercial glasshouses. The new arrivals could decimate natural populations if their use is not strictly controlled, a scientist warns. Non-native bumblebees have already escaped and survived to breed in both Chile and Japan, reports New Scientist. 'We wanted to determine whether or not escaped commercial bees could survive in the UK countryside,' says Tom Ings of Queen Mary, University of London. 'Unfortunately we found that they could.' His study - published in the Journal of Applied Ecology - showed commercial colonies were better at foraging for nectar than native bees and the bees were consistently larger.

By Fiona Mac Rae - Science Reporter