Summer sounds will be abuzz

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Ryan Dostalek
Friday, June 27, 2008

The typical sounds of summer—sizzling grills, kids splashing in swimming pools and the crack of a baseball bat—will have a rhythmic beat of hands thwacking legs and arms as mosquito populations make a return to normal Wisconsin levels this summer.

“We have been historically dry for the past few summers,” said Phil Pellitteri, an entomologist with UW Extension at UW-Madison. The dry summers, with the exception of record rains last August, have led to fewer mosquitoes swarming the outdoors in recent years.

“We’re in for a normal bad summer,” he said. “People aren’t going to be happy.”

Record floods don’t mean record amounts of mosquitoes, though. Pellitteri said the Rock River is moving so fast that mosquito eggs get washed down stream. Lakes, such as Lake Koshkonong, also aren’t prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Floodwater mosquitoes thrive when there are no natural predators, such as fish or frogs, which are prevalent in lakes.

Floodwater mosquitoes, the most familiar of the 55 types of mosquitoes to Wisconsinites, take advantage of stagnant water that floods low-lying areas, such as culverts or ponds. Female mosquitoes lay eggs in the low-lying areas. When the areas flood, usually through rainfall, the gestation of the eggs begins. After 10 days in the water, the eggs hatch. If the water dries up before the 10 days, the eggs become dormant until water floods the area again. Pellitteri said floodwater mosquito eggs can last up to nine years before dying.

“You could be paying for mosquito eggs from years ago,” he said.

He said fluctuating water and humid conditions fuel mosquito populations.

“The warm nights are mosquito heaven,” he said.

Mosquitoes aren’t the only insects that are going to be more prevalent because of the floodwater. Pellitteri said people can look out for fungus beetles and fungus gnats, which feed on molding and decaying matter, such as vegetables. He said they aren’t problematic themselves, but they do indicate other problematic biological events are taking place, such as molding.

Despite the seemingly high numbers of mosquitoes, Tom Presny, Janesville’s parks director, said the city has no plans to take measures to reduce the numbers.

“We sprayed against mosquitoes back in the 1990s,” he said. “But there was a cost, effort and responsibility with not much effect, so we discontinued (spraying).”

Just because the city is not taking a proactive stance against the mosquito population, Presny said individuals can take preventative measures to avoid being bitten by the pest.

He encourages people to apply insect repellent or use fogging techniques, such as mosquito bombs or fogging sprays, while outdoors.

Presny described conditions on his visit to Lusting Park Wednesday as a large concentration of swarming mosquitoes.

“It was pretty heavy during the daytime,” he said. “That means they’re certainly going to be a nuisance at night.”

Last updated: 9:15 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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