Bumper Crops of Mosquitoes

  • A mosquito taking a blood meal. Only a tiny fraction carry West Nile virus, but health officials say it's best to avoid being bitten. (Photo by Lester Graham)

With above normal rain in much of the country this spring… mosquitoes have been heavier in many areas. The quick warm up after a cool spring has also helped hatch out a lot of the pests. The GLRC’s Lester Graham reports you only have to step out your door to see the result:


With above normal rain in much of the country this spring mosquitoes have been heavier in many
areas. The quick warm up after a cool spring has also helped hatch out a lot of the pests. The
GLRC’s Lester Graham reports you only have to step out your door to see the result:

It’s not so much hot days, but the fact that the nights are warmer that’s helping the skeeter broods
hatch out in hordes. I’ve been painfully aware of the mosquitoes this year because I live right next
to a river in a year where there’s been plenty of rain to make little pools of stagnant water
everywhere. It’s a real nuisance.

(sound of mosquitoes)

“I’m in a very hot car and a lot of mosquitoes are trapped in here with me.
(pause) All these mosquitoes got here, just because I opened my hatchback and took
some groceries out, and they just swarmed in.”

(sound continues… smack!)

I don’t like ‘em much. Most people don’t have a very high tolerance for mosquitoes. They’ve
actually studied that. John Witter is a biologist with the University of Michigan who spends a lot of
time in the woods, studying bugs. He says there was a Michigan State University study that tracked
interaction of people and mosquitoes while camping.

“If you have more than about four mosquitoes landing on your body per minute, the people leave
the hiking trail. They go back to their campers because they just cannot handle that annoyance.
So, higher population numbers of mosquitoes, more bites, more annoyance.”

But not everyone, or everything, can get away from the pests. Jenny Barnett works at the Binder
Park Zoo in Battle Creek, Michigan. The zoo is in the middle of a forest. The mosquitoes love it

(sound of birds)

The zoo’s tried to use different kinds of fumigation in past years, but with sensitive animals and birds
like the ones we’re watching there was a lot of concern; and really it just didn’t work.

“With 430 acres and a lot of it being wetland, we didn’t even make a dent on it. So, after a couple
of years, we stopped doing anything.”

The mosquitoes weren’t always that bad, and guests at the zoo didn’t seem to mind that much. A
little mosquito repellant and everyone was good to go.

Then along came West Nile virus. Like a lot of zoos, Binder Park put its birds inside – not good for
the birds – not good for the people who wanted to see the birds. A couple of years after West Nile
was detected, a vaccine that was developed for horses and it was used on birds, too. Jenny Barnett says it
seems to work.

“So far we’ve had success with it and we are continuing to do testing on their blood to check for
West Nile virus and we’ve been successful so far, but we will continue to vaccinate. We’ll
vaccinate our horses, and we’ll always worry about it, but a lot of the birds do have immunities right

And it’s assumed a lot of people also have immunity to the West Nile virus. They probably have been
infected and didn’t even know it. People with immune deficiencies are at much greater risk, but
many healthy adults can contract it and dismiss it as a summer cold or bad allergies, but health
officials say do what you can to avoid being bitten. Now, they’re not saying that you shouldn’t go
outside. They’re just saying if you do go outside, you should use a mosquito repellant with DEET.
Natasha Davidson is with the Health Department in Ingham County Michigan. She says don’t
douse yourself in repellant. A light spray will do.

“And if you’re applying it to your face, you should really put it on your hands first and then apply it.
And even applying it to children, it’s better an adult put on their hands first and then apply it to a

Davidson says don’t use DEET on children six months of age and younger, and don’t put it on
toddler’s hands because they’ll just put them in their mouths. Ugh… not good to ingest DEET.
Some advise using a cream based repellant because it doesn’t go into the skin as easily, and stays
on the surface where it can do some good. It’s also a good idea to wear loose fitting clothes with
long sleeves and long pants. I know it’s hot, but it beats scratching mosquito bites for days on end.
Natasha Davidson says even on heavy mosquito years like this one you can help reduce your
exposure to the pest.

“Other things that people can do is to make sure they have no standing water in their yard,
whether it’s at home or at a vacation property. Empty your gutters. Make sure that they’re clean
so that the water flows through. Make sure that you don’t have flower pots that have standing
water in it, old tires, different things like that. If you have a bird bath, change the water in the bird
bath once a week.”

Beyond that there’s not much you can do. Mosquitoes aren’t going away and with a little

(sound of spray)

…you should just go ahead and enjoy the outdoors.

For the GLRC, I’m Lester Graham.

(sound of door opening and closing)

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