Sick of wildfires? Just wait until the summer rains return.
Sure, we'll get hurricanes, lightning and afternoon storms. But that's also when scientists and bug experts predict a possible statewide uptick in a native population of supermosquitoes with super-painful bites.
University of Florida bug scientists are raising warning flags about Psorophora ciliata, known popularly as "gallinippers."
UF entomologist Phillip Kaufman said the monster mosquitoes are common to the entire eastern half of the U.S., but Florida's summer tropical rain has the potential to help yield huge populations.
Gallinippers deposit their eggs in the soil, where they can lie dormant for years in dry weather. But when rainwater accumulates in low-lying areas -- particularly south of Orlando -- those eggs hatch.
The number of mosquitoes we can expect in Central Florida this year depends entirely on how wet our summer will be but generally is impossible to predict, Kaufman said. The best way to avoid bites is to stay indoors during dusk and dawn and wear repellent with DEET, which can also prevent disease from other mosquito varieties.
Some good news
The large mosquitoes ...
-- Don't occur in large numbers in Central or South Florida and are not known to spread diseases.
-- Have been known to eat other mosquito larvae.
-- Usually die within a week.
-- Get targeted continually by mosquito-control workers who spray chemicals and use other methods to reduce pest populations.
Some bad news
-- Are intimidatingly large, about the size of a quarter or 20 times the size of a regular mosquito.
-- Are vicious biters, leaving painful wounds.
-- Are known to emerge after midsummer rain -- and we get that a lot.
-- Typically feed on mammalian blood.
-- Largest species of biting mosquito in the United States.
-- Zebralike pattern on their legs.
-- Shaggy hair on their legs.
-- Lay their eggs in moist soil.
Other bad biters in Central Florida
-- Culex nigripalpus: a species of a common mosquito known to carry pathogens for West Nile virus, encephalitis and other viruses in birds that can be transmitted to humans. They populate wastewater ponds, drains, gutters and lagoons in Central and South Florida.
-- Anopheles crucians: a widespread species of biting mosquito known to carry malaria and equine encephalitis.
-- Aedes albopictus: The invasive species from Southeast Asia has become common, in part because of human behavior. They breed in containers left outside, such as children's toys or buckets where water accumulates. They are capable of carrying several vector pathogens, including those for dengue fever.
-- Aedes aegypti and Aedes vexans: mosquitoes recognized by white markings on the legs and notorious for carrying tropical fevers such as dengue and yellow fever. They bite during daytime and are common in coastal areas, primarily in the Keys and South Florida.
-- Coquillettidia perturbans: These depend on aquatic plants to breed, are aggressive biters and are known to transmit some strains of encephalitis.
SOURCE: Florida Mosquito Database, University of Florida
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