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  1. Environment

Think the mosquitoes are extra bad this year? You're not wrong.

Zach Marks, of Seminole, uses a mister-blower to distribute a cocktail of insecticides at a Dunedin property while abating mosquitoes with Mosquito Joe of Tampa Bay on Friday in Dunedin. The chemicals work together to kill and repel mosquitoes, fleas and ticks. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Jun. 22

If you feel like you've spent extra time this summer swatting off Hitchcock-like swarms of mosquitoes, blame the rain.

Pinellas and Hillsborough counties have seen an uptick in salt marsh mosquitoes, which are found by the coast and brackish water, said Pinellas County Mosquito Control education outreach specialist Alissa Berro.

"They are pretty aggressive biters, so they're pretty noticeable when they come out," she said.

The good news: the salt marsh mosquito doesn't carry disease.

The bad news: it's the most aggressive mosquito species in Florida, said RJ Montgomery, the director of the Hillsborough County Mosquito Management Service.

Unlike other mosquitoes that lay eggs in containers, salt marsh mosquitoes lay eggs in grassy areas. When water floods in, they hatch. Along with the recent rain, the full moon raised tide levels and brought more water into the marshes, Berro said.

In both counties, high populations of mosquitoes are found up and down the stretch of coastline. In Hillsborough, mosquitoes are especially concentrated in Apollo Beach, South Tampa and Town 'N' County, Montgomery said.

Mosquito management tried to fly a plane to preemptively spray the larvae before the rains came, but the harsh weather meant they couldn't stay up for long. Instead they'll be going up again to attack the adults, which can lay up to 2,000 eggs in their lifetime, he said.

"We don't spray adult mosquitoes unless there's a significant population," he said.

Despite the bugs being a nuisance, Berro said they don't carry disease.

It will take about two weeks to treat the mosquitoes, about the length of an adult's life cycle, Berro said. Berro said it's tricky because the salt marsh mosquitoes are more active during the day, when the county doesn't fog to avoid harming people and other insects.

Pinellas County is using its helicopter, which goes directly over salt marshes where the mosquitoes hide their eggs, she said. It uses treatments like Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, known as BTI, which turns into a crystal protein structure inside a mosquito and rips it open, Berro said.

If you're wondering how to get rid of these extra-aggressive mosquitos, your best bet is to call the county and wear a repellant, Berro said.

"Salt marsh mosquitoes are really something we need to deal with," Berro said. "It's not something homeowners can do a lot about."

Contact Romy Ellenbogen at rellenbogen@tampabay.com. Follow @Romyellenbogen.

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