Advertisement
  1. News

Vicious salt marsh mosquito chasing Tampa Bay indoors

A Pasco County Mosquito Control District helicopter drops granules coated with mosquito larvicide over water at the Wilderness Lake Preserve in Land O’Lakes on Wednesday.
Published Jul. 6, 2017

TAMPA — Swatting mosquitoes is nothing new for South Tampa real estate agent Cassandra Reardin, but the past few weeks have bugged her more than normal.

"It's awful," said Reardin, 47, who has been taking clients from house to house for 22 years. "It's been bad before, but I think this year is the worst year."

Other residents have posted on the social network Nextdoor that the bloodsucking insects are crowding their garages and pools and swarming them as they step out of the car. They're not imagining it. Mosquito control officials say there really are more insects out this year, and many of them are especially nasty.

For most of the winter, mosquito eggs sit dormant in the ground, waiting for water and warm weather. Early this year, an especially high tide hit the area, Hillsborough County Mosquito Control director Donnie Hayes said.

"Once we received that high tide, it pushed a lot of water into areas there hadn't been water before," he said.

That saltwater awakened the eggs of the black salt marsh mosquito, known to scientists as the Aedes taeniorhynchus.

An early population spike like that can affect the rest of the summer, said Rob Krueger, entomology and education specialist for the Pinellas County Mosquito Control District. Mosquitoes live only about six weeks, but they can lay 150 to 250 eggs at once, which become adults five to six days after they hatch, he said.

"It's just really going to compound things as time goes on," he said.

The species is a mean one.

"This is very much a nuisance mosquito," Hayes said. "It is an aggressive biter."

It hatches in large numbers, and it's fast, too — able to fly several miles, when many mosquitoes can't manage more than one, said Dennis Moore, director of the Pasco County Mosquito Control District.

And it is out in droves. Hillsborough County received 3,414 requests for mosquito service through June 25, or 700 more than at that point in 2016, Hayes said.

He credits some of that to efforts to engage the public more, but said surveillance also shows more adult bugs than normal.

Pasco County is seeing higher mosquito counts too, Moore said, though not as sharp of a spike. He said the case is probably true across Florida after a particularly rainy June.

"All of a sudden we just got hammered with rain. Eggs are hatching. Mosquitoes are developing and emerging," he said.

Moore said that, to homeowners' dismay, the insects like to stay out of the sun during the day, and often swarm in the shade in garages and by doors.

"You've got to be careful not to let them in as you go inside," he said.

Reardin said she and her clients don't hang around outside homes long before they have to go in.

"When you're looking at houses or homes that are vacant, and people aren't always maintaining it, there can be some standing water," she said.

Pinellas County has noticed more calls for service without noticing more mosquitoes, Krueger said. But the pesky salt marsh mosquitoes appeared suddenly in mid May.

"It kind of hit us all at one time this year," he said.

He said a "perfect storm" of warm weather, rain and high tides all helped.

Floodwater mosquitoes have now arrived, too, and are more likely to carry diseases like West Nile virus, he said.

When his team is called out to homes, standing water is almost always a problem because it provides a place for mosquito larvae to grow.

"Nine out of 10 inspections, you'll get residents breeding mosquitoes in their own yard," he said.

The problem is the same across the region.

"The No. 1 tip that we preach is tip and drain," Hayes said.

Clearing rainwater doesn't help with the salt marsh mosquitoes — which lay their eggs in moist soil, not water — but it does deter other species, including those that carry West Nile virus, the Zika virus and other diseases.

Hayes advises people to avoid being outside at dusk and dawn and to wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothes.

Dr. Brent Laartz, an infectious diseases specialist in Safety Harbor, said those who plan to venture outside should apply an insect repellent that is at least 20 percent DEET, and do so at least 15 to 20 minutes after applying sunscreen. "If you apply sunscreen over the DEET product, it's going to take away the smell and potentially deactivate the DEET," he said.

Laartz said he hasn't seen more mosquito-borne illnesses lately than normal.

According to reports by the Florida Department of Health, the state has had fewer cases this year of dengue fever, chikungunya and the Zika virus than at this point in 2016.

Contact Langston Taylor at ltaylor@tampabay.com. Follow @langstonitaylor.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 file photo, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi speaks to reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, after meeting with President Donald Trump about about responses to school shootings. Bondi is preparing to defend Trump against accusations that he pressured a foreign government to aid his re-election campaign. And she’s stepping down from a lobbying where she represented foreign interests (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP
    The special advisor to President Trump incorrectly stated Sondland’s role while appearing on national TV ahead of the EU ambassador’s testimony.
  2. Although people with insurance pay nothing when they get their flu shot, many don’t realize that their insurers foot the bill — and that those companies will recoup their costs eventually.
    Federal law requires health insurers to cover the vaccines at no charge to patients, but the companies eventually recoup the cost through higher premiums.
  3. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    The FDLE is investigating the incident, during which deputies fired their weapons in an attempt to stop the driver.
  4. For the latest news and information, go to tampabay.com. TMCCARTY  |  times staff
    The lawsuits claimed the individuals were unable to access public establishments because they did not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  5. The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center shows the storm moving toward the northeast out to sea. National Hurricane Center
    An early morning advisory shows the storm turning toward the northeast.
  6. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    The Shih Tzu, owned by the suspect’s uncle, was then tossed into a canal.
  7. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    Both victims had gunshot wounds that deputies said were not life-threatening.
  8. Pasco County School Buses. Times (2018)
    The School Board also approved a student calendar for 2020-21, with Aug. 10 as the first day of classes.
  9. Enterprise Village in Largo is celebrating 30 years this month. The facility, which provides hands-on education about economics, has served generations of children across the Tampa Bay area. In this photo from Nov. 7, fifth-graders from Safety Harbor Elementary School begin their day at the village. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    More than 400,000 kids in the Tampa Bay region have gone through the program, which offers a hands-on look at the free enterprise system.
  10. Students at Dunedin Elementary welcomed teacher Stephanie Whitaker back to campus the morning after she was named Pinellas Teacher of the Year in February 2012. The 2019-20 winner will be announced Jan. 29 at Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. Ten finalists have been selected. DOUGLAS CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    News and notes about K-12 schools and colleges in Pinellas County.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement