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Puddles harbor whining pests

There are some wildly aggressive females out there right now, and while, to my knowledge, they haven't been involved in incidents of road rage or violent public outbursts, they're making life miserable for many of us. These females are out for blood, and they're depending on you and me to help them out, no matter how miserable it makes us.

I'm talking about mosquitoes, familiar to Florida residents and visitors this time of year.

Maybe the recent rains are responsible, leaving large puddles that linger and filling discarded containers, creating ideal spots for female mosquitoes to lay eggs. If the number of mosquitoes surrounding me and my beagle Eddie when we're outside is an indication, there's an even more intense population around the corner.

The University of Florida's Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory has identified 80 species of mosquitoes in Florida, more than any other state.

Some days, I think most of them are in my back yard.

It's only the female mosquitoes that are unrelenting with attacks, biting with a sting that makes us wince and give a quick slap at the violator.

Female mosquitoes need blood meals for egg development, and one spot's as good as another. A leg, an arm, back of the neck — all prime targets — and those females are even happier if you're hot and sweaty. And they don't care if you're working, relaxing or sleeping.

The goal is to draw blood from any warm-blooded, breathing body that gives off carbon dioxide. The gas attracts them. Every time you exhale, it's like shouting, "I'm over here!"

The average female life span is three to 100 days, and one may lay 100 to 300 eggs at a time. It takes less than two weeks to produce a new generation.

Most mosquitoes never venture more than 1 mile from their breeding site, so the numbers multiply rapidly. There are two courses of action: limiting breeding grounds; and protecting yourself from feeling as though you're being eaten alive by these tiny pests that can carry significant diseases, threats to both people and animals.

Back in 2003, the Florida Department of Health issued good tips credited to Jake Rutherford, the Monroe County Health Department's director.

In spite of newfangled gadgets, some very expensive, that have hit the market touting new ways of attracting and destroying mosquitoes, common sense still applies.

Tips include avoiding dusk and dawn, the time when most mosquitoes are on the move; covering as much of the body as possible, limiting skin availability; and using mosquito repellents containing DEET.

Ways to eliminate breeding grounds are to clean out gutters where water may stand; to turn over or remove pots that might hold water; to remove empty beverage containers, cans, and cups; to check tarps on boats, decreasing puddle spots; to pump out bilges on boats; to replace water in birdbaths and outdoor pet dishes frequently; to empty outdoor plant trays; and to remove vegetation and obstructions in drainage ditches.

From my own experience: check indoor plant trays where water might collect; refresh indoor pet water dishes daily; and, if there is an aquarium in your home, make sure the filter is working and adequate for proper water circulation and filtering.

Don't forget the four-legged friends, like my little Eddie. Veterinarians can advise the best protection against mosquitoes that can, through their bites, transfer tiny heartworm larvae between an infected dog and one that's healthy.

Without protection, the results can be serious, if not deadly, for a dog.

It's little consolation when you're just nodding off and hear that familiar high-pitched whine, but we're told these aggressive females are present in every part of the world except permanently frozen spots.

On the positive side, we're bigger than they are and we can still yank the covers over our heads in defense.

If you're still curious or just want more really good information go to mosquito.ifas.ufl.edu.

Puddles harbor whining pests 07/16/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 16, 2008 9:12pm]

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