Eaten by Aedes: The buzz on summer mosquitoes
Wx (Weather) and the City
They lie waiting in storm drains, breeding hoards of underground armies that target unsuspecting pedestrians. They crouch camouflaged in the base of flower pots, their eggs resurrected by puddles from recent storms. They explode from swollen creeks, tracking down their next blood meal with specialized heat-seeking sensors.
Let's face it. Mosquitoes in the DC area have been voracious this summer. Their prolific populations have left us grabbing for the nearest can of DEET. Is it the heat? Severe thunderstorms? Drought? How have we coped ...or have we?
Scientists have identified more than 3,500 species of mosquito around the world ... not a comforting fact for mosquito magnets like me. They are vectors for diseases such as Yellow Fever, Dengue, Malaria and West Nile virus. Virtually no one in the world can avoid these pesky suckers, except those who spend time in Antarctica (take it from me), parts of Greenland, the open ocean or tall mountaintops.
Keep reading to learn more about mosquitoes in our area, how the weather impacts them and what you can do to control them ...
The eastern and southern U.S. also have the pleasure of hosting the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), one of the most invasive species in the world. It was first found in the U.S. in the mid-1980s and has quickly spread by breeding in pools of rainwater that collect in tires stored outside, as well as other wet nooks and crannies in forests and cities.
Whereas other mosquitoes are crepuscular -- most active at dawn and dusk -- the Asian tiger mosquito can and will bite during the day. Despite being a tropical species, it is well adapted to cold conditions: it hibernates over winter; its eggs tolerate cold; and adults can survive sub-freezing temperatures and snow.
Mosquitoes need standing water to breed. Lucky us: we've been inundated with strong thunderstorms, floods and plenty of standing water this month. After females feed on blood (males do not bite), they lay their eggs in streams and pools of rainwater in any catchment devices available -- flower pots, depressions in the sidewalk, storm drains, bird baths and supposedly even footprints in the mud. The eggs hatch into larvae, which remain underwater and grow into pupae. The pupae transform into adults that emerge from the water ready to feed.
Although it seems contrary, drought can exacerbate mosquito breeding. There may be fewer pools of rainwater filling flower pots during drought and dry weather, but there are more pools of standing water left in storm drains that would normally be flushed out after storms.
Temperatures can activate viruses within mosquitoes. West Nile virus and St. Louis Encephalitis develop inside their hosts once the temperature reaches about 58 degrees Fahrenheit. The rate of development then doubles for each additional 12 degree temperature increase.
Given the trouble mosquitoes cause to humans and other animals, scientists have been asking: does the world really need them? Some say yes; others disagree. Mosquitoes are an important food source for birds, bats, spiders, lizards, frogs, fish and other insects. Adult mosquitoes feed on flower nectar (females also need blood), and thus serve as pollinators for certain plants.
I guess we can't complain. After all, we do live on a former marsh. Just be thankful we don't live in the Arctic tundra where, when faced with a short breeding season, mosquitoes consume up to 300 milliliters (1.3 cups) of blood per day from a single caribou and form swarms thick enough to suffocate the animals.
With the recent design of the first malaria-proof mosquito, global eradication of the insects may not be necessary, at least as far as humans are concerned.
Tips for mosquito control
Birds and bats are natural insecticides: a small brown bat can devour up to 600 mosquitoes in an hour. Some residents resort to installing bird and bat houses on their properties (learn how to build a bird house and bat box).
Even the small amount of water found in a flower pot saucer is sufficient for mosquitoes to lay eggs in. Remove water from rain gutters, plastic buckets, children's toys, potted plant trays and other containers after a storm. If you have water features such as bird baths or wading pools in your yard, empty and change the water at least once per week. Protect yourself and your family by using insect repellent and wearing long sleeves and pants when outdoors during dawn and dusk.
Tips courtesy of Earth Gauge.
Using DEET safely
Screw the Heat, Mosquitos are Coming! (Prince of Petworth blog)
Posted by: Langway4Eva | August 25, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: cassander | August 25, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: FIREDRAGON47 | August 25, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: SWester2010 | August 25, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: spgass1 | August 25, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Bombo47jea | August 25, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | August 25, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: SBrun | August 25, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: authorofpoetry | August 25, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ecomst1 | August 25, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Susannah3 | August 25, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Ann-CapitalWeatherGang | August 25, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: rlguenther | August 25, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Ann-CapitalWeatherGang | August 25, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Sarpedon | August 25, 2010 6:46 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Weatherguy | August 25, 2010 11:32 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.