Mosquitoes prosper following the heavy rains of August and September

September 27, 2011

Summer may be over, but — slap! — you wouldn’t know it from all the — slap! — mosquitoes still buzzing around.

Usually by this time of year, mosquitoes are not that noticeable, thanks to cooler temperatures. But not much has been usual about this year’s mosquito season.

Because there wasn’t a lot of rain in June and July, it looked as though the Washington area might have a mild mosquito season. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, such as a pond, a puddle or even a few drops of water on a leaf. Without a lot of rain, there weren’t a lot of mosquitoes. But all that changed in August.

“First, the thunderstorms happened, then on the heels of that we encountered [hurricane] Irene and were immediately smacked with [tropical storm] Lee,” said University of Maryland entomologist (bug scientist) Michael Raupp. “It’s really turned into a pretty impressive mosquito season.”

A bumper crop of biters emerged about six weeks ago and hasn’t let up. A mass of mosquitoes started hatching last week, about two weeks after a week of rain from Lee.

“Cooler temperatures will slow them down but won’t put an end to this,” Raupp said. The little pests won’t be gone for good until we have a night with freezing temperatures, which usually comes around mid-November. That sends mosquitoes, and their eggs, into hibernation until spring.

Here are some mosquito facts to help you know your opponent:

●In addition to needing water, mosquitoes thrive best in warm weather — it makes them develop faster from egg to adult. That means that when the weather is both wet and warm, as it was late this summer , there are simply more mosquitoes.

●If you are someone who gets a lot of mosquito bites, you can blame the girls — the girl mosquitoes, that is. Only female mosquitoes bite; they need blood to lay eggs. Males eat nectar from flowers.

●There are two common types of mosquitoes in this area: the Asian tiger and the Culex. The tiger mosquito is striped and bites all day long. The smaller, all-black Culex mosquito is more typically found at dusk and can be very clever. “They will basically follow you into the house,” Raupp said.

●It’s true that mosquitoes bite some people more than others. Dozens of different smells come off every human being from different parts of the body at all times, Raupp said, and each person has a different mix of scents. You can’t smell these odors, but mosquitoes can, and some people emit a mixture of smells that mosquitoes find irresistible. Unfortunately, it’s not known which scents they respond to the most — but you know it if you have them!

— Margaret Webb Pressler

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