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S.C. flooding raises worries about pests

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First it was the precipitation. Now it’s the pests.

As soggy South Carolina waits to dry off from its historic flooding, experts say the state’s residents should brace themselves for a fresh anxiety: snakes, ants and other critters that might seek refuge in homes and buildings.

“They’re going to try and survive as we do,” said Jared Hulen, sales manager for Fort Mill-based Cramer Pest Control. “The pests will be very active.”

Unusual sightings have already begun making the rounds on social media.

In one example, Georgia’s WSAV published video showing what the TV station said appeared to be an “island” of fire ants clinging to one another as they floated on water in Dorchester County.

Such mounds of floating ants are not uncommon in a flood, as the insects seek to survive and find higher ground. People or animals can be bitten by the insects if the formations come in contact with them.

The government has warned South Carolina residents to be alert for wildlife that may have been displaced by the floodwaters. That includes alligators and snakes, the National Weather Service said this week.

The warnings come after “1,000-year floods” from days of torrential rain that ravaged parts of South Carolina, followed by dams that began bursting this week. Some homeowners lacked flood insurance, and other neighborhoods remain inaccessible, adding to the uncertainty as to how long properties might remain vacant.

Jeff Dudan, CEO of AdvantaClean, said employees of the Huntersville-based company will often encounter pests in water-damaged homes AdvantaClean is hired to get rid of mold and moisture.

“Snakes and spiders and all those types of things,” said Dudan, whose company has locations nationwide.

Hulen, of Cramer Pest Control, said floodwater can also drive black widows and other spiders into homes.

But long after the floodwater is gone, another insect might become a worry, he said.

“I would think termites are going to be really bad this spring,” he said.

All that wet wood in homes and other buildings across South Carolina will be a magnet for termites, Hulen said.

“We could see a more active season,” he said. “Termites are going to have a heyday until things dry out.”

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts

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