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Exploring how the way we live influences climate change and its impact across the Carolinas. You also can read additional national and international climate news.

In a warming climate, pests are on the rise, park staff warn visitors

A photo of an unlaced hiking boot.
Zachary Turner
It’s time to lace up those hiking shoes, tuck in those socks (to protect from ticks), and hit the trails.

A warming climate has made conditions more favorable for many pests. In Charlotte, the average annual number of “mosquito days” has increased by 11 since 1979, according to an analysis by the research group Climate Central.

Mosquitos aren’t the only bugs out for blood on Carolina trails. Cases of the tickborne illness Lyme disease have more than doubled in the U.S.

A graph illustrating the increase in mosquito days in Charlotte by eleven days since 1979.
Climate Central
Charlotte gained 11 mosquito days since 1979.

“Best practices for dealing with ticks, stay on trails as much as possible,” said David Mumford, park superintendent at Falls Lake State Recreation Area, north of Raleigh. Incidentally, this also helps protect native flora and prevent erosion.

“Wear light-colored clothes so that if a tick is crawling on you, you can identify it,” he added.

Mumford said tucking in your clothes can prevent ticks from reaching bare skin. He also had success with chrysanthemum-based tick repellents, such as permethrin, that can be applied to clothing in advance of hikes.

Don't miss WFAE's 2024 Carolinas Climate Summit on April 18. We have an exciting lineup of speakers who will address the impact of climate change on the Carolinas; climate and environmental justice; solutions; individual action; and other key issues that are shaping our region.

Snakes aren't pests — thank a snake for making sure we’re not overrun with rodents next time you see one — but they inhabit our parks and natural areas and become more active as the weather warms.

“The best way people can protect themselves is to pay attention to their surroundings,” Mumford said. “And if they do see a snake, appreciate it from a distance.”

The key to a successful outdoor trek is education and observation. In North Carolina, there are six species of venomous snakes, but even these don’t normally pose a threat to humans.

“The majority of the bites happen when people either don't see the snake and step on it,” Mumford said. “Or they're trying to pick it up or hurt the snake, and they get bit.”

Snakes and other reptiles occupy a vital niche, keeping other pest and disease-spreading populations under control.

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Zachary Turner is a climate reporter and author of the WFAE Climate News newsletter. He freelanced for radio and digital print, reporting on environmental issues in North Carolina.