Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Warm winter could mean buggy spring in Tampa Bay

TAMPA — The unseasonably warm winter has been a delight for tourists and beachgoers.

It also has been a breeding ground for bugs.

In fact, should Tampa Bay get its usual spring rain, all manner of bugs likely will be out in force, experts say.

"Warm means that insects could become active sooner," said Eileen Buss, a University of Florida associate professor of entomology.

The warmer winters essentially act as an alarm clock for plants and bugs, which spring into action, Buss said. Since last month was the eighth-warmest January in Tampa history, the stage is set.

Add a little rain and that could mean more mosquitoes, more termites, more ants.

Mosquitoes, particularly the kind that carry West Nile virus, are a particular concern.

"One of the concerns we have is we're going to have a much more severe virus transmission season," said Jonathan Day, University of Florida professor of medical entomology.

The West Nile virus can cause fever in mild cases, but the serious cases have symptoms of disorientation, high fever, tremors and convulsions, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can be deadly. Last year produced only one human case in the Tampa Bay area.

The next few months will determine the level of bugginess.

If the region gets its usual 2 to 3 inches of rain per month, it will give bugs a place to breed and multiply, Buss said. If it stays dry, the impact will be less.

Bugs, of course, aren't the only problem.

Warm winters bring earlier budding of plants and oak trees, which jump-starts allergy season, said Richard Lochey, director for the Allergy and Immunology division at University of South Florida's Morsani College of Medicine.

Despite the early start, Lochey said the season is predicted to be over by mid March.

The warm winter has been caused by a series of weather developments, said Charlie Paxton, National Weather Service science and operations officer.

First, severely cold weather from the arctic has not made it to Florida.

Second, the La Niña atmospheric pattern has set up off the West Coast, meaning drier weather for Florida.

Lastly, a dome of high pressure has been over Florida for much of the winter, trapping warm air over the state.

In 1937, Tampa had its warmest January on record with an average temperature of 72.4 degrees.

Contact Meredith Rutland at or (727) 893-8804.

Warm winter could mean buggy spring in Tampa Bay 02/05/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 5, 2013 11:20pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Hernando County Sheriff's Office: Deputies shoot suicidal woman who brandished shotgun


    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County Sheriff's deputies shot a woman they believed to be suicidal after she pointed a shotgun at them Sunday, according to a police report.

  2. Trump administration disbands federal advisory committee on climate change


    WASHINGTON - The Trump administration has decided to disband the federal advisory panel for the National Climate Assessment, a group aimed at helping policymakers and private-sector officials incorporate the government's climate analysis into long-term planning.

    President Donald Trump. [Associated Press]
  3. Blake Snell shines as Rays beat Mariners to end skid (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell delivered the best outing of his young career and the Rays offense continued its home run-hitting ways for a 3-0 victory Sunday against the Mariners in front of 13,354 at Tropicana Field.

    Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) with starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) after the top of the seventh inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.
  4. No touchdown, but fun lesson for Bucs' Adam Humphries


    It didn't end up being a touchdown, but one of the Bucs' biggest hustle plays in Thursday's win over Jacksonville saw receiver Adam Humphries scoop up a loose ball just before halftime, after what looked like an incompletion but was correctly ruled a Jameis Winston fumble.

    Bucs WR Adam Humphries runs to the end zone with QB Jameis Winston trailing -- his alert play wasn't a touchdown because teammates cannot advance a fumble in the final two minutes of a half.
  5. Bucs' Demar Dotson should be back from injury next week


    The Bucs got good news on starting right tackle Demar Dotson, whose MRI showed only a mild right groin sprain and should be back at practice next week.

    Bucs tackle Demar Dotson, shown last year when he signed a three-year contract extension, should only miss a week of practice with his groin injury and can return healthy for the Bucs' season opener at Miami in three weeks. [Octavio Jones | Times]