Mosquitoes are here, and they're hungry

For those who have been feeling like mosquito magnets every time they've stepped outdoors, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station had some unhappy news Monday.

"It could get worse over the next couple of weeks," said Philip Armstrong, associate scientist at the agricultural experiment station, which runs a mosquito trapping and testing program for the state.

Last week, he said, field workers collected 32,561 mosquitoes in the 91 traps set throughout the state, about twice the usual number for this time of year. The mosquitoes are trapped and tested for West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. It was one of the highest weekly totals in the 16-year history of the testing program, he added.

"We're seeing an explosion in the numbers coming off all the rainfall we've had," he said. "It's all the standing water that's created temporary pools for breeding." The recent high humidity levels have also created ideal conditions for the mosquitoes.

With more rain in the forecast, the pools aren't expected to dry out for several more days. But there is one piece of reassuring news: There's been no increase thus far in the types of mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus and EEE, Armstrong said. Instead, the majority of insects in the traps are "floodwater mosquitoes" - opportunistic breeders that don't carry disease.

"But it does make it miserable," said Armstrong, a Hamden resident. "Normally I can go outside where I live, but now I get driven indoors all the time."

Stephen Mansfield, deputy director at the Ledge Light Health District, said the agency has received a few calls recently from local residents about the mosquito population. At the request of a couple of callers, Ledge Light sanitarians have visited their homes to place larvicidal briquettes in pools of water that can't be drained. The briquettes, which contain the biological control bacillus thuringiensis israelensism, or BTI, are also available for free to residents of the five Ledge Light towns who pick them up at the agency's New London office and administer the larvicide on their properties themselves. Ledge Light serves East Lyme, Groton, Ledyard, New London and Waterford. BTI briquettes can also be purchased at hardware stores.

Ledge Light sanitarians will also visit residents' properties to advise them about landscaping changes to minimize mosquito breeding areas, Mansfield said. The agency can be reached at (860) 448-4882.

"Without stagnant water, they won't breed on your property," he said. "They don't travel that far from where they hatch."

Patrick McCormack, director of the Uncas Health District, advised local residents to empty any standing pools of water, including any water collecting in unused swimming pools, which should be kept covered. Uncas Health District serves Bozrah, Griswold, Lisbon, Montville, Norwich, Sprague and Voluntown. McCormack said although the agency hasn't been getting many calls about mosquitoes, he has been doing a lot of swatting himself lately.

"Personally, I'm miserable when I take the dog out in the morning or go running at night," McCormack said.

Taking the bite out of bugs

To reduce exposure to mosquitoes:

• Limit time outdoors at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.

• Drain all standing pools of water, including bird baths, flower pots and other containers.

• Unclog rain gutters, which can become reservoirs for water pools where mosquitoes can breed.

• Apply insect repellent containing DEET before going outdoors.

• Place BTI larvicide in any water pools that can't be drained. It has a "low environmental impact" and its effects are specific to mosquitoes.

Source: Philip Armstrong, associate scientist, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.


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