Pest Problems After Storms and Other Disasters

— Written By and last updated by

Written by Dr. Michael Waldvogel, N.C. Cooperative Extension Specialist (Household & Structural Entomology), edited by Minda Daughtry

Hurricanes, heavy storms. tornadoes and other similar natural disasters can lead to problems with a variety of insects and vertebrate pests which may become unwelcome guests in and around our homes and disrupt clean-up and repairs. Other pests may present problems years later if repairs were not completed properly. The type and extent of pest problems depends in part on the time of year and the seasonal cycle of pest activity.

Wasps: In the late summer and early fall, wasp colonies are close to full size. Flooding and winds during this time may damage the nests, disrupting the colonies and even leaving them homeless. Fallen trees may contain bald-faced hornet or European hornet nests. Paper wasp nests may be found on eaves, roof overhangs or under porches and other protected areas of buildings. Hornet nests may also be found in shrubs. Yellow jackets may be flooded out of their underground nesting sites. Numerous adults will be seen flying around the nest site and may also be attracted to any outdoor foods and exposed trash. Yellow jackets are often attracted to freshly cut and broken wood for the sap or as nesting material. Be cautious when cutting trees and removing branches and other debris. Watch where you step and look for yellow jacket nests in the ground. Normally, unless a nest is right nearby, the wasps are probably out foraging and are less likely to sting.

However, they may become entangled in your clothing or you might grab one accidentally when handling limbs.

  • Do not swat insects that land on you. Instead, flick them off. Avoid wearing perfumes or colognes that might attract wasps. Insect repellents are typically ineffective against stinging pests.
  • When eating outdoors, keep all food and drinks covered when they are not being consumed. Drinking from cans may be convenient but you may not notice a yellow jacket entering the can in search of water and/or sugar. Dispose of food scraps and beverage containers in trash bags and, preferably, inside trash cans. Keep trash cans covered.
  • Wear protective clothing such as gloves, boots, long pants and a hat. Although they may be uncomfortable, particularly if the weather is warm, they are highly recommended when doing storm cleanup in general.

For more information including what to expect regarding Fire Ants, Mosquitoes, Flies in Homes, Rodents, Snakes; Spiders, Wood-Damaging Pests, and Moisture & Mold Problems read more.

Minda Daughtry is Horticulture Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County