You're not imagining that high-pitched whine in your ear or the itch on your arm. Mosquito populations across the country are booming following extended periods of heat, humidity and above-average rainfall. The blood-sucking bugs are booming in Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire and other states. The swarm has led some to worry about a resulting increase in West Nile Virus, although experts say the disease isn't present in every state or every type of mosquito.
If you think it's still a bit early in the year to be seeing so many skeeters, you're right. Mosquitoes are usually at their worst in early August, but the hot, wet summer has sped up their breeding cycle according to AccuWeather.com, which says the bugs are hatching and maturing faster than normal.
Meanwhile, the West Nile Virus also spreads faster in warm weather. The disease hasn't been heavily present yet, though. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there have only been 23 reported cases of West Nile Virus to date this year, most of which were in Mississippi, Nevada and South Dakota. None of the states were mosquito populations are currently booming have had any reported cases of West Nile Virus.
In part that may be because the weather has not affected all mosquito species equally. In Georgia, the Southern house mosquito, which carries the West Nile Virus, is not booming this year. According to a report from the Athens Banner-Herald, heavy rains washed that particular species out of the storm sewers where they normally hatch, lowering their population.
That doesn't mean Georgia is out of the woods, though. Asian tiger mosquitoes are present "by the millions" in the state because there is so much free-standing water.
Heavy rains in Virginia could also lead to booming bug populations. Experts warned readers of the Martinsville Bulletin to make sure there isn't any freestanding water in flower pots, gutters or other containers, since that's where female mosquitoes lay their eggs.
In South Carolina, crews have been out spraying for mosquitoes every night, trying to stop populations from exploding more than they already have. Calhoun County Mosquito Control Supervisor Ron Gibson told the Times and Democrat that this the worst year for skeeters in more than a decade.
The problem isn't only in the South. This is also the worst year in recent memory for mosquitoes in New Hampshire, according to the Sentinel Source. There, eggs that have long lain dormant have sprung to life after a particularly wet year. Luckily, tests have shown that the bugs there do not appear to be carrying West Nile Virus or Eastern Equine Encephalitis, another disease that can be relatively common in the region.
There is a bright side to the early swarms. Mosquitoes have a short lifespan, so if they are maturing early this year, they may also die out early. According to experts interviewed by AccuWeather, this year's mosquito season could be shorted to just two weeks instead of its usual four. That's news worth buzzing about.
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