Santa Fe River Flooding

More Mosquitoes Compliments of Irma

Disease Vectors

Florida is home to about 80 different species of mosquitoes, and they don’t all prefer the same habitat. In fact, they don’t all target humans. Some mosquitoes breed in standing water, marshes and ponds. Others prefer to live and breed near humans and can do so in very small amounts of water. These are container mosquitoes and include Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti, both of which can transmit Zika and other viruses to humans. If the container is emptied before the larvae mature, they dry out and die. But another type of mosquito that can become a problem after a flooding event (like our recent Hurricane Irma), or after an unusually wet summer are called floodwater mosquitoes.

Picture of biting mosquitoes

Karen McKenzie, a graduate student majoring in entomology at the University of Florida’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences in Gainesville, holds her hand in a cage full of mosquitoes to determine if they are ready to feed on Friday, Aug. 9, 2002. Her research is aimed at finding out why the pesky insects are more attracted to some people than others. Results will be used to develop new insect repellents. The mosquitoes used in the tests are raised in captivity and do carry not any diseases such as the West Nile virus.

Floodwater Mosquitoes

Floodwater mosquitoes lay their eggs on moist soil near grasses and weeds. The eggs need to dry out before they can hatch; and in this case, they can remain viable on that dry soil for over a year. When heavy rains occur and the area becomes flooded once again, the eggs hatch and

Approximately 26,000 mosquitoes captured in a single Hernando County trap shortly after Hurricane Irma.

Approximately 26,000 mosquitoes captured in a single Hernando County trap shortly after Hurricane Irma. Photo by Rene Snow, Hernando County Mosquito Control

the mosquitoes complete their life cycle. It isn’t until after these mosquitoes become adults that they are noticed by residents. The drainage ditches and wooded areas that Hurricane Irma filled with water are all potential breeding sites for these mosquito species.

How to Protect Yourself

Florida floodwater mosquito species include Culex nigripalpus, Ochlerotatus taeniorhyncus, and Psorophora columbiae. All three of these species are happy to bite humans and all are capable of transmitting disease, along with many of our regular mosquito species. The most effective way to protect yourself from mosquito bites is to use a repellent containing DEET as the active ingredient. And don’t think that mosquitoes are only active at sundown and sunrise. Some species are active during the day, so repellents should be used any time you are outdoors. Wearing protective clothing and long sleeves helps also. Dumping any standing water on your property, checking gutters for water and cleaning bird baths on a regular basis is always a good idea to reduce the populations of container mosquitoes, which are always with us.

For a University of Florida guide to mosquito control for residents with more information, you can go to http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/IN/IN104500.pdf