August 20, 2018

Michigan hit with mosquito ‘double whammy’

Posted

NORTHERN MICHIGAN — Stock up on bug spray because the early summer mosquito population is booming, and they’re hungry.

Michigan State University Associate Professor of Entomology Michael Kaufman said there is definitely increased mosquito activity so far this summer.

“The cool opening to spring and flooding did two things (for mosquitoes),” Kaufman said. “It gave them a lot of habitat, and it slowed them down at their start. But as it warms up we are getting hit with both the spring and early summer series. We call it a double whammy where we’re hit with two populations at once.”

Kaufman said the difference between the spring and summer mosquitoes is the former generally has one cycle of breeding and dies off, while the latter can continually breed if conditions are right. He said the summer series has had population bursts as early as May and as late as October.

Kaufman said although the area is being hit hard by mosquitoes now, that does not mean it will stay that way for the rest of the summer. He said anyone who attempts to predict how mosquito populations will be months down the line is not entirely telling the truth. He said there are far too many variables that can affect which species thrives or not to reliably predict that far into the future.

While Kaufman said accurately predicting months down the line is unreliable, looking a couple weeks into the future tends to be more credible.

“Because there has been so much rain there are still a lot of good habitats around,” he said. “If we continue to get sporadic thunderstorms and rain we can expect them to thrive for the next few weeks until we hit a dry spell.”

Although we are being hit hard by mosquitoes so far this year, Kaufman said that doesn't necessarily mean there will be more cases of West Nile virus. In fact, he said the general belief among entomologists is that as mosquito abundance grows, the number of West Nile cases is reduced. He said the species of mosquito that carries the virus actually thrives in dry conditions, not the wet conditions that most species thrive in.

While the chance of West Nile contraction may be smaller right now, Kaufman said that doesn’t mean the rest of the mosquitoes are harmless. He said some species can give heartworm to your pets, or carry other sicknesses that entomologists are watching as well.

When it comes to fighting back, Kaufman said there is always a new repellent on the market, but there’s no guaranteed solution.

“As far as I know there isn’t a magic bullet for this,” Kaufman said. “We would all love to go on the deck and not have to worry about mosquitoes. There are area repellents that can clear an area without having to cover your area in pesticides or spraying things like DEET on yourself, but I can’t necessarily speak to the efficacy of those.”

Kaufman mentioned citronella candles and garlic repellents are two of the more popular area repellents as of now, but he said the results can vary greatly. He spoke of one experiment done that gave subjects a concentrated garlic pill hoping to repel mosquitoes, but it had little to no effect.

Kaufman said one tried and true method that works surprisingly well is to have a fan blowing on you while outside. He said the pests aren’t terrifically strong flyers, and will generally be blown away by the fan. He also said applying repellent to the skin is effective.

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