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Ants thrive in warm, mild winter weather

I've always marked the beginning of spring by the arrival of ants in my kitchen.  After a week or two of all-out war, I usually get the best of the critters. This year, I've been inundated by ants since January; they seem to really love the coffee maker. Are we in for an especially bad insect year?— Ralph K., Medford Rick Hilton, an entomologist with the Oregon State University Extension Service, assures us ants will always be with us, no matter what.

"I think ants like coffee makers," Hilton said. "Ever since drip coffee makers were invented, they've been there; ants like moisture."

When the winters are warm and mild, ants always seem to start off at high levels, he said, but other factors can come into play.

"With ants, there is no easy, hard and fast answer," Hilton said. "If it's too wet, it drives them out of the ground and into the house. Generally speaking, the warmer it is, the better insects do. That's why there are so many in the tropics while we have it comparatively easier here."

If ants are trouble, you can assume other bugs will be amped as well.

"Yellow jackets overwinter as adults," Hilton said. "During drought, the queens produce more generations per year. Then when it gets warm, the populations are much higher and generally have better success."

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. To see a collection of columns, go to mailtribune.com/youasked. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.