New Zealand pest plague inbound for spring

  • 07/09/2018

A hungry horde of rodents and insects has been breeding a pest army - and they're about to be unleashed.

New Zealand has just had an abnormally warm winter - usually a time where weak pests get killed off.

"Certainly the facts and the figures that come out here after winter, [it's] probably going to be a top five, maybe, warmest winter on record here in New Zealand," NIWA meteorologist Ben Noll said last week.

But mild conditions means they survived, and their numbers are increasing every day.

"A certain amount will die off because of the cold. If there's warmer weather less rodents will die, so there will be more next season," Direct Pest Control owner Doug Morris told Newshub.

Rats are going to be one of the main pests - especially in Auckland. They're capable of producing litters of up to 10 offspring every eight weeks under favourable conditions, and Auckland council biosecurity manager Phil Brown says there's been ominous signs so far.

"Rodent populations fluctuate year to year in response to environmental conditions such as weather and food availability," he told Newshub.

"This year seems to have been especially bad for rats, probably due to the long mild summer followed by a mild winter."

This can have a "massive impact" on our native fauna and flora. Rats are a threat for our native birds, insects, geckos and plants - including species like the yellow head and orange-fronted parakeet.

DoC rangers with a dead rat on Tiritiri Matangi Island.
DoC rangers with a dead rat on Tiritiri Matangi Island. Photo credit: Supplied

And just like rodents, wasps and other creepy crawlies also like warmer weather.

"In spring we get cockroaches, fleas, wasps start to come. Also bed bugs, mosquitos, spiders and flies," Mr Morris warns.

"Sometimes mothers are beside themselves because their kids are being bitten."

These hungry pests can cause chaos to our food supply as they chew on crops and friendly insects and spoil stored food products.

"We all know wasps as a painful nuisance but many people may not realise how much impact they can have on native species - and our economy," Mr Brown told Newshub.

"Nationally wasps cost the bee-keeping industry alone $8.8m per year. Wasps also eat our native butterflies, moths and other insects and compete with native birds for food."

Wasps are a major pest in New Zealand.
Wasps are a major pest in New Zealand. Photo credit: iStock

But if you want to keep your property safe from pests, there're some easy ways to protect yourself.

"We ask people to help at home by having a trap in their garden that you check and re-set regularly," Mr Brown says.

"It's really easy. Rats love food like peanut butter so you don't need special bait. You just need to secure the trap in a station or cover so pets and kids can't get into it."

Mr Morris says Kiwis can combat pests with a combination of cleaning and pest control.

"For cockroaches, keep kitchens cleaner. I see a lot of kitchens that are infested with German cockroaches. For fleas, keep pets treated for fleas, and vacuum houses most of the time," he told Newshub.

Flies like sheltered spots to hang out, so give them an alternative to being in the house - like a dense hedge. Houses with leafy gardens typically have fewer flies inside.

Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, so get rid of any on your property like in buckets and blocked gutters.

You can also use ant bait stations around the property. The ants take the tainted bait back to their nest which kills off the colony.