Welcome to summer in the United States (almost). Though we’re spending much of the spring season flip-flopping between cold rain and almost shorts weather and you might think we’ve been relocated to the UK, it’s nearly summer. This is a season that at least half of the country knows as orange cone weather and the “mosquito” season. It’s certainly been wet enough for mosquitoes to be a real concern, and most of us should be thankful that it’s not been as warm as the season normally warrants. Florida is not breathing the same sigh of relief.
Giant mosquitoes called Gallinippers (smaller than a zombee, but still scary as hell), native to the Eastern US and approximately 20 times the size the average, are invading central Florida. It’s been warm enough and wet enough to bring in the giant variety of the normally tiny pesky insect. Entomologists have been predicting this pending infestation since tropical storm Debbie hit the US. The menacing pests have already been spotted in Seminole county. In a state that is normally known for its gold diggers, these gigantic blood suckers might prove to be even more frightening.
Not scared yet? “Indian River County mosquito control director Doug Carlson told WPTV the bugs are so big ‘it can feel like a small bird has landed on you’ when you get bitten.” The bugs got the name “Gallinipper” because it’s said they can take a gallon of blood per bite, obviously an exaggeration, but indicative of their size and the amount of pain felt when the mosquito bites.
On a positive note, the Gallinipper is not known to be a disease carrying insect. Health officials warn residents in infected areas to slather themselves with DEET (diethyltoluamide) and staying inside when possible. Unfortunately, DEET isn’t exactly human friendly. The Environmental Protection Agency says you should wash it off your skin when you return indoors, avoid breathing it in and not spray it directly on your face. Somehow these things make one wonder if it’s okay to rub it all over your body (which absorbs things through its pores).
In lieu of presenting our readers with numerous claims from homeopathic solutions we cannot prove, we’ll leave you with the following bits of information about the nemesis of summer.
Things you should know about mosquitoes:
1. If you’re being bitten during the day, the culprit is a breed of mosquito that breeds in standing water (flood areas, puddles, rain catching tubs, forgotten buckets). The most common is the Asian Tiger Mosquito.
2. Another daytime biter is the Woodland variety. If you live in a warm woodland environment (hello, Minnesota), you will want to be wary of these. According to studies. “Many of the woodland pool species are fairly aggressive and will try to bite a person on the head, face or upper body even when that person is walking. Dark rice-field mosquitoes and salt marsh mosquitoes can be very aggressive biters and will try to bite a person even as the person is running or waving a broom at the mosquitoes.” Vicious!
3. A puddle three inches deep and three feet in diameter can easily produce 10 to 20 times as many mosquitoes as your average 1-acre farm pond.
4. The mosquitoes that breed in flowing water are the types that carry the West Nile virus. If you thought that the itching welt was bad, you might want to consider the effects of West Nile.
5. Bug Zappers are not effective. Each night zappers kill about 3,000 beneficial insects such as moths and butterflies, which pollinate flowers, but only a handful of mosquitoes.
6. Sprays or fogs do more harm than good. They are effective for only 2 to 4 hours, and then the mosquitoes are back. Sprays are indiscriminate. They kill every insect: ladybug, butterfly, praying mantis, and earthworm – everything! Worst of all, mosquitoes that survive come back stronger than ever.
So cover up. Do your research. Try some repellants that don’t result in sickness or cancer. Avoid outside time in areas known to be infected with these giant blood suckers, and last but not least remember, if you’re in one of those wooded areas (MN) with mosquitoes, all the flailing and screaming in the world will not help you. Resistance is futile.
If you’re wondering what sort of disease you might be exposed to when you’re bitten, rest assured, most of the US is not prone to infestations that carry Malaria or Yellow Fever. You might be a bit more concerned about the following: