With more than 15 inches of precipitation so far this year, there’s no doubt this spring will bring out swarms of mosquitoes, experts say.
Fortunately, the blood-sucking insects that are flying around this spring aren’t the ones that carry diseases, said Dave Fiess, director of the Fort Wayne-Allen County Health Department’s Vector Control and Environmental Services.
With the more lethal mosquitoes coming in summer, it’s difficult to predict whether this year will be worse than normal for diseases like West Nile, eastern equine encephalitis or St. Louis encephalitis, Fiess said.
There are a lot of environmental factors that play into whether it’s going to be a bad year or not, he said. But with a wet spring, it’s probably going to be bad for the nuisance type of mosquitoes.
Last year, 5,764 cases of the West Nile virus were reported in 48 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those cases resulted in 268 deaths.
The Hoosier state had 77 cases of West Nile last year and at least six people died, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Twelve of those cases were in Allen County and two ended in death, said John Silcox, director of communications for the local health department. Wabash and Wells counties each saw one case, and Adams County had three reported cases.
Fiess said it will be a few more weeks before his team begins collecting adult mosquitoes for disease testing, but it’s important that people wear insect repellant and do what they can to avoid creating stagnant pools of water.
Both nuisance and disease-carrying mosquitoes need standing water to breed.
Since Jan. 1, Fort Wayne has had 15.26 inches of precipitation, nearly 5 inches more than the same time period in 2012, said Katie Gross, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Syracuse.
Average precipitation for January through May is 13.34 inches, she said.
Gross said it’s difficult to say what the weather forecast has in store for the summer months.
Our seasonal outlook says there’s an equal chance of having above or below normal rainfall for June, July and August, Gross said.
Floodwater and culex are the types of mosquitoes Hoosiers should be aware of, Feiss said.
Floodwater mosquitoes, which arrive in the early spring, are a nuisance but don’t carry diseases and are mostly a pesky part of enjoying spring weather, he said.
They tend to lay eggs in wooded areas and on the surface of stagnant bodies of water, Feiss said. The eggs can remain dormant for up to 10 years if the area remains dry.
Last year, it was dry as a bone, so those areas didn’t fill up with water and the eggs continued to lay there and waited, Fiess said.
After those areas fill up with water and cover the eggs, the insects begin to hatch and grow, he added.
Then all of the sudden, there are thousands of these mosquitoes flying in the area, he said. They are very aggressive, unfortunately, but they only last for a few weeks.
Female mosquitoes can lay more eggs around the edges of low-lying areas, but the eggs will stay there unless the low areas fill up with water again later in the summer, he said.
Culex mosquitoes, which arrive in the summer, can carry diseases. They bite birds or other animals and can pick up diseases and transfer them to humans, Feiss said.
The insects lay eggs on surfaces and don’t need to be near a wooded area or pond to hatch, he said.
We find these breeding closer to home because they are breeding in tires by the garage, dirty birdbaths, unmaintained swimming pools, or even a bottle cap of water on the back porch, Feiss said.
Although culex mosquitoes aren’t as aggressive as the floodwater type, they do tend to sneak up on people, he said.
Those are the ones we’re really concerned about, and that’s why we are always asking the public to maintain their yards and homes, he said.