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Here's buzz on swelled ranks of pesky mosquito

An engorged mosquito sucks the blood of its human victim.

An engorged mosquito sucks the blood of its human victim.

If you think mosquitoes are way worse than normal this year, you're right. Blame it on a weird combination of drought, rain and — are you ready for this? — home foreclosures.

It starts with water. Mosquitoes need water. Some species lay their eggs on water. Others lay eggs in places that are likely to get wet soon, such as the edges of puddles, marshes and ponds.

Drought conditions are bad for mosquito eggs laid on the ground, because the water doesn't rise up and stimulate them to hatch. Eggs can just sit there waiting for years.

"Then when the drought is finally broken, you have a huge problem," said Jonathan Day, a University of Florida professor of medical entomology.

That's what happened this summer through much of Central Florida, Day says.

The region had endured more than two years of drought, which meant more and more mosquito eggs stacked up without hatching. But early this summer, rains sloshed over the region. And eggs started hatching.

Swarms of mosquitoes were the result. It's hard to quantify the increase precisely, but state officials say the mosquito population is the highest it's been in four years.

"The first six months (of the year) were just a dream. Then sometime in late June, early July, it became a nightmare," Day said.

Then there is the home foreclosure factor. Some local officials say that because of the high number of foreclosures, more people have let their pools go to pot. A neglected pool full of stagnant water becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

One bright spot: Mosquito-borne diseases like the West Nile virus have not increased along with the mosquitoes. The reason is that these diseases originate with infected baby birds. The mosquito population did not start booming until the bird nesting season was largely over, which prevented mosquitoes from carrying these diseases from birds to humans.

County by county

Treating for mosquitoes

Pinellas: Received 2,577 requests for help fighting mosquitoes through Aug. 20, compared with 1,381 during the same period last year, said mosquito program manager Nancy Iannotti.

Hillsborough: Has frequently received 100 or more calls a day for mosquito service this summer, compared with 50 to 60 calls a day in a normal year, said mosquito control director Carlos Fernandes.

Pasco: "We suddenly have had a wet year in comparison to the last few and as a result we're seeing, not a tremendous number, but certainly more than usual," said mosquito control director Dennis Moore. "That's why we're here."

Hernando: Has treated 190 stagnant pools for mosquitoes this year, compared with 59 through August last year, said mosquito control director Guangye Hu.

To end the cycle:

Regularly empty sources of standing water, including birdbaths, wheelbarrows, potted plants, kiddie swimming pools and leaky outdoor faucets.

Here's buzz on swelled ranks of pesky mosquito 08/24/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 27, 2008 4:04pm]
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