First, it was proper food handling tips. Then, advice to pet owners about keeping Fido cool during a heat wave. And this week, Calvert County Commissioner John Douglas Parran spent his portion of the commissioner's comment period to alert his constituents to . . . killer mosquitoes.

"There's a new mosquito, a super mosquito that's a threat to humanity," Parran said, after his colleagues finished their comparatively mundane reports about engineering projects and the like. "Killer mosquitoes have been sighted in Calvert County."

Well, maybe not "killer."

But Parran said he is worried about the Asian tiger mosquito--a particularly aggressive insect and newcomer to the region that can transmit encephalitis, a disease that can be fatal to children, as well as dengue fever. Dengue fever is a viral illness with symptoms such as fever, painful headaches, eye, joint, and muscle pain, and rash. It has no known treatment and can be fatal in children.

The bug has been spotted in 20 communities around Calvert. It bites during the day and is resistant to mosquito control sprays used by the county to combat typical mosquitoes.

Like Parran, the board's only independent, the mosquito tends to stand out. It is dark black with bright white markings. The legs are broadly striped with snow white scales, the thorax has a white racing stripe down its center and it waves its legs above its head as it attempts to bite.

Cold Cuts, Not Shortcuts

When she was 15 minutes late for her meeting with Charles County commissioners earlier this week, U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Maryland) offered an explanation familiar to most local residents: traffic on U.S. Route 301.

"My gosh! The number of shopping centers that have sprung up," exclaimed Mikulski, who traveled south on Route 301 to reach the La Plata meeting.

She said her mental picture of the highway dated to the years before the St. Charles Towne Center shopping mall opened in 1990. Since then, Waldorf has developed into a regional retail center, with more stores opening to a steady stream of shoppers.

Mikulski said she took personal advantage of Waldorf's new shopping opportunities, stopping to buy bologna at Shoppers Food Warehouse.

Government by the Masses

There will be no end of opinion forthcoming on many issues facing Charles County. Just count the number of committees at work.

The sand and gravel task force is finishing its work, and a citizens committee is partway through its study on whether a highway bypass is needed around Waldorf.

Late last month, Charles County commissioners announced appointments for four more committees. Two will plan for growth in Waldorf and in Bryans Road, while another will study the role of homeowners associations.

Yet another committee will study whether the county should change its form of government, perhaps giving greater power to county elected leaders who now need permission from the state legislature for many major decisions. Their reports are all forthcoming.

Down to the Last Drop

The St. Mary's County commissioners asked citizens Tuesday to voluntarily cut back on all water use--outdoor and indoor--as part of a statewide drought emergency declared last week by Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D).

"Working together as a community, we can lessen the threat of the dangers caused by the drought," said Commissioners President Julie B. Randall (D-At Large).

The county Emergency Management Agency asked residents to avoid watering lawns, cars, sidewalks and driveways; turn off fountains; repair water leaks; wash only full loads of clothes; take shorter showers; and turn off the faucet while brushing teeth.

Staff writer Jessie Mangaliman contributed to this report.