Spiders, ants and centipedes — oh my!

If you think you’ve seen more creepy crawlers trying to get into your home this summer, it’s not your imagination. Texas entomologists say this year’s intense summer temperatures are driving larger numbers of critters indoors as they search for cooler air and sources of water.

Texas is facing what could become one of its hottest summers on record. Along with the heat, the region is seeing drought, increased wildfires and low aquifer levels.

Those same temperatures are why there are more critters out and about in general; an early spring resulted in more bugs breeding at a faster rate, said Molly Keck, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension integrated pest management program specialist for the San Antonio area.

“One thing that we’re seeing from the heat is an increased rate at which insects reproduce,” the entomologist said. “Which is why we’re seeing higher populations of ants and termites and why we’re seeing them swarm sooner than usual.”

The reason these critters are crawling inside is they are simply following the currents of cool air and the smell of water, Keck said. They don’t understand that they’ve made it “inside,” she suggested, or what that means to a homeowner or tenant; they just find it more hospitable.

The best way to keep them at bay is to make sure your home’s cracks and crevices are sealed, Keck added. Anywhere you can see light coming through or that can fit a dime, the creepy crawlers can find their way in, she said. Best practices include keeping your home clean and dry and sugar put away, Keck added.

Due to this summer’s intense heat, times like dusk, dawn and night are going to be particularly busy times for bugs, said Renee Holmes, an entomology doctoral candidate at Texas A&M University who specializes in fire ant control.

To avoid dehydration, critters like ants and other insects wait until it’s a bit cooler to move around and forage, Holmes said.

“On the flip side, you’ll see some reduction in the number of mosquito species this summer,” Holmes said, because they lack sufficient water sources. “But … a lot of beneficial insects are gonna die in the process, too.”

This might have long-term negative impacts on wildlife species, like Mexican free-tailed bats, which eat mosquitoes, Holmes noted, although data will have to be collected to see if that’s the case, she added.

Bugs are highly adaptable creatures, Keck said. While we might feel this summer’s intense heat more than we have in past years, for insects it’s just another hot day. Texas critters are extremely adaptable to extremes in heat and cold since the state’s weather can be quite unpredictable, Keck said. So interestingly, they may be less affected by global warming than we are, she added.

“Because climate change will be slow and gradual, local insects will likely change and adapt,” Keck said “Drastic changes — they regularly have these drastic changes here in San Antonio, so these gradual increases won’t do as much to them.”

Wild animals, on the other hand, may be less adaptable. Drought and heat like this summer’s are particularly tough on local deer, birds, squirrels, raccoons, snakes and lizards, said Lynn Cuny, founder and president of Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation. Cuny said she’s seen a higher volume of calls this summer as folks seek advice for dealing with local wild animals.

If you encounter a wild animal in your home or garage, Cuny suggested trying to gently steer the creature back outside or calling for aid. She made the same point as Keck: Animals don’t know the difference between inside and outside; they’re just trying to survive.

“They don’t want to be near humans,” Cuny said. “They’re just looking for food and water.”

Live traps should be avoided, Cuny advised. Summer is breeding season for many Texas animals, and live traps often catch a nursing mother, which if relocated spells death for her offspring. Fawns seen alone are often left by the mother while she goes to eat, and they should be left alone, Cuny said; the mother usually comes back within 12 to 14 hours.

Anyone interested in helping these animals can put water in a small rubber tub away from where their children and pets play, Cuny said. Adding sticks and leaves to the tub can help animals like praying mantises and lizards get a drink without drowning, she noted. Food, however, should not be left out, as it can make animals become too familiar with humans, she said.

“If you do leave out water, make sure to put it in the shade,” she said. “Otherwise, it can get too hot for the animals to drink it.”

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Lindsey Carnett

Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report.