Mosquito season is upon us

Published: Sunday, July 7, 2013 at 5:13 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, July 7, 2013 at 6:53 p.m.

The annual onslaught is about to start.

Mosquitoes, born in tires and bird baths and any other container filled from recent rain, are starting to pester people in some areas.

The mosquito-spread disease of eastern equine encephalitis has been found in three “sentinel chickens,” said Alachua County environmental health director Anthony Dennis. Chickens are placed throughout the county and regularly tested for detection of the disease.

“It’s not a surprise for this time of the year. We are at the height of mosquito season, so we get Triple E,” Dennis said. “Mosquito populations are up. We’ve had a lot of rain, so there is a lot of standing water.”

So far in July, Gainesville has received 2.66 inches of rain, which is about 1.80 inches above normal, according to the National Weather Service.

June rainfall totaled 6.25 inches, which is almost an inch below normal.

Mosquitoes need just a touch of water in which to grow, so the rainy season tends to create the swarms.

Karen St. Pierre, interim entomologist with the city of Gainesville’s mosquito control operation, said the city is trying to keep the little biters to a minimum. The city recently held a tire round-up in which residents brought old tires for recycling to eliminate breeding spots.

“Mosquito control begins in your backyard,” St. Pierre said.

St. Pierre said the numbers of adult mosquitoes caught in traps around the city has not reached levels that trigger the need for spraying.

The city pretreated some areas that tend to produce mosquitoes, such as cypress swamps, and also uses the 2-inch-long gambusia fish to eat up larva. But St. Pierre is urging residents to make sure they are taking in or overturning any outdoor objects that hold water.

Qualities that make some neighborhoods attractive to people also can make them mosquito magnets, said Roxanne Connelly, University of Florida associate professor at the Florida Medical Entomological Laboratory in Vero Beach.

For instance, neighborhoods with a heavy tree canopy tend to have more mosquitoes because the trees provide a humid resting place during the day and protection from predators such as bats and birds.

“They have the right amount of moisture and heat,” Connelly said.

Connelly added that different species of mosquitoes prefer different environments — some thrive in backyards, others need swamps.

Contrary to urban legend, the relatively jumbo-sized gallinipper mosquito was not blown into Florida by Tropical Storm Debby last year, when gallinipper numbers jumped. The species is known to have a ferocious bite.

“It’s always been in Florida since before humans,” Connelly said. “It might have been more abundant after Tropical Storm Debby.”

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