The warm winter – the warmest since 1706 – means that there are a lot of nasty little biting things which are doing rather well. The Volkskrant had a short list of the most unpleasant three.
1. The mosquito
Live by the water in the Netherlands and you are probably used to them sneaking into your bedroom and buzzing through the night. Experts think it will be worse this year because so many of them survived the winter. There are several different types in the Netherlands, including exotic new arrivals such as the tiger mosquito, which bizarrely has arrived here via bamboo plants in garden centres and in second hand tyres. However, the most unpleasant mosquito you are likely to come across is the Molestus mosquito – its name says it all really – which expert Bart Knols told the Volkskrant, has been known to carry the West Nile virus.
2. The tick
Another small biting thing, which reached record numbers last year. There are likely to be even more in 2014 because their hosts – like mice and birds – survived the warm winter and so, therefore, did they. The more blood a tick has drunk over its life, the more likely it is to carry the Borrelia bacteria – which can cause Lymes Disease. Scientists monitoring the country’s tick population captured over 16,500 from standard collection points all over the country last year, 64% more than the average over the past six years. The Utrechtse Heuvelrug, the Veluwe heathland areas and the dunes west of Amsterdam are particularly popular with ticks.
3. The Oak Processionary caterpillar
A third major beneficiary of the warm winter.. this hairy little devil is the caterpillar laid by the Oak Processionary moth (thaumetopoea processionea). It delights in shedding poisonous hairs which may cause skin irritation and breathing problems. It crawls in procession over the bark of oak trees forming a moving carpet of hairs. With no known pesticide to kill them, pest controllers have been removing their nests from affected trees. It has now been discovered that the caterpillars also nest underground. There is no escaping the little beasts.