With the floods of summer come the pests of summer — bloodsucking mosquitoes. It takes several days to a couple of weeks for mosquitoes to hatch, molt and fly out of floodwater, but the swarms eventually arrive, in greater numbers than before the flood.

After the recent flooding from thunderstorms and Tropical Storm Isaias in the Washington region, a bumper crop of mosquitoes has emerged. For people with skeeter syndrome — an allergy to mosquito bites — venturing outside can be unpleasant.

But why do floods produce more mosquitoes? And do droughts lead to fewer mosquitoes? At what temperature do mosquitoes become inactive in the fall, and can mosquitoes carry the coronavirus?

I asked David Price, associate certified entomologist at Mosquito Joe, these questions, plus many more. An interview of our conversation follows.

Interview with David Price

What are the most common mosquitoes in the Mid-Atlantic region?

There are several mosquito species out of 176 species recognized in the United States that are common in the Mid-Atlantic region. The most common are the Asian tiger mosquito and the yellow fever mosquito. Also, the common house mosquito, inland floodwater mosquito and salt marsh mosquito are relatively common.

How do floods impact mosquito populations?

Heavy rainfall often causes lakes and ponds to rise to where the inland floodwater mosquito and salt marsh mosquitoes have laid hundreds of eggs. These eggs can be viable for five to ten years. As the waters recede, these eggs hatch and will be adults within two weeks, and depending on the temperature, maybe sooner. Eggs from container-breeding mosquitoes can also withstand a period of drying out and hatch within two days of heavy rain. As a result, the population of mosquitoes in general significantly increases a week to two weeks after heavy rainfall.

How does drought impact mosquito populations?

Several mosquito species have adapted to dry climates. The eggs can remain viable for months and years waiting for the introduction of water. Additionally, the container-breeding mosquitoes that live near our homes can be supported by water sprinklers and high humidity during a drought season.

Do mosquitoes spread the coronavirus?

The World Health Organization had stated earlier in the year that there is no evidence mosquitoes can transmit the coronavirus. Many entomologists have agreed that a mosquito cannot replicate the virus, confirmed through a study at Kansas State University titled, “SARS-CoV-2 failure to infect or replicate in mosquitoes: an extreme challenge.”

Why do some people attract mosquitoes more than others?

Mosquitoes are attracted to CO2 [carbon dioxide] and lactic acids found in sweat from our bodies, and heat. Some people have more lactic acids and produce more heat, making them more attractive to mosquitoes.

What is the best mosquito repellent?

There are many types of repellents, and people react differently to each of them. However, the products containing blends of essential oils and picaridin are working well.

How do you treat yards and properties to eliminate mosquitoes?

It always starts with an inspection of the yard and exterior of the home to identify water collection points. Next, remove water where possible and apply larvicides to collection points that can’t be removed or redirected. A professional will use an adulticide and insect growth regulators to the resting areas. The purpose of the applications is to get ahead of the mosquito life cycle while disrupting breeding sites via the removal of water collection points.

Do all mosquitoes die when the temperature falls to a certain temperature?

There are several genuses of mosquitoes that overwinter, or go into a state of diapause [a delay in development] as the days become shorter and the temperature falls below 50 degrees.

Do you know why some people get itchy welts from mosquito bites, and other people don’t? Is it an allergic reaction?

Yes, some people have more of an allergic reaction to the proteins in the mosquitoes’ saliva. This condition is often called skeeter syndrome.

Do all mosquitoes feed on nectar? Do they have other food sources? And how does the mosquito use blood?

Yes, all feed on some form of nectar from flowers, aphid, or plant juices. The female requires a blood meal to fertilize the eggs. The male’s purpose as with many insects is to inseminate the female and die. Most male mosquitoes only live a week or two depending on the species. They have no other food sources.

What mosquito diseases are most common in the U. S.?

West Nile virus is the most prevalent disease, along with dengue, chikungunya, and various types of encephalitis. Malaria averages about 1,500 cases per year. However, it is caught pretty quickly and doesn’t have the opportunity to spread aggressively. Yellow fever is rare and is usually contracted outside of the U.S.

Attracting mosquitoes for a photo shoot

For this article, I wanted to include a current mosquito photo and video from the 2020 swarm rather than stock photos. So I decided to use myself as bait to shoot a mosquito.

I entered a patch of woods near the Potomac River on Saturday morning, not far from Dumfries, and mosquitoes immediately swarmed me. One deer fly even joined in on the fun.

I’ve never photographed mosquitoes before, but I figured all I needed to do was stand still and extend out my left arm to get bitten while shooting photos and video with a camera in my right hand. It seemed easy enough.

Well, my plan didn’t work out at first. The mosquitoes weren’t interested in landing on my left arm, and instead wanted to buzz around my face and legs. And the deer fly wanted to land on my neck and back.

The photo shoot quickly turned into an unpleasant experience, which is what I expected. I alternated between swatting at mosquitoes around my face then extending my left arm, hoping for a bite. It was a repetitive process of swat-and-extend, swat-and-extend. I felt quite silly and hoped nobody was watching.

Finally, a photogenic female mosquito landed in the center of my left arm, just as I had hoped. I quickly started shooting photos and videos with a camera in my right hand while I tried to hold my left arm still.

I felt no pain or itch during the bite, but it was unsettling knowing the mosquito was actively sucking my blood as I worked the camera. After about 30 seconds of shooting photos and short video clips while donating blood, I abruptly ended the photo shoot.

I showed David Price my photos and video, and he confirmed that the bite was from a yellow fever mosquito. Contracting yellow fever is rare in the United States, so I’ll be okay.

There are no more mosquito photo shoots in my future. I’ll return to photographing storms and sunrises. And for my annual weather calendar, a mosquito photo will not appear. That’s for sure.

Let us know if you have any interesting, painful or horrific mosquito stories.

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