Mosquitos swarming in mid-summer numbers

June 13, 2021
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By Amanda Rogers

Mansfield Record

Summer doesn’t officially begin for almost two weeks, but the mosquitos are already swarming in full summer glory.

“I’m seeing really high numbers in my traps,” said Cameron Cowden, environmental health specialist for the city of Mansfield. “I’m seeing late summer numbers in my traps. Peak is mid-August to late September. That’s when we see the specific type of mosquito we are looking at come out in numbers.”

The city has a dozen trap sites around town and sets six each week, Cowden explained. And there are plenty out there, he admits.

“I’m seeing summer numbers,” he said. “Numbers doesn’t necessarily mean West Nile. We have not seen any with West Nile yet in Mansfield. I think there has been one reported in Grapevine.

“The ones that people complain about are out during the day and hurt when they bite,” he said. “They can’t transfer disease. That’s what’s called a nuisance mosquito.

“The ones that I look for come out right before the sun rises and at dusk,” Cowden said. “They are small and brown. They prefer birds but will bite humans, usually on ankle or elbows. They will enter homes. I always spray my joints, knee to ankle, shoulder to wrist and neck.”

Sprays and mosquito dunks can help, Cowden said, as can eliminating breeding spots.

“Mosquitos don’t fly far,” he said. “They’re usually in your yard or your neighbors’ yard. If you’re seeing mosquitoes, you can remove the source or have your neighbors remove them. Any mixture between water and organic material like grass, dog poop, leaves. Swimming pools are deep enough that they assume fish are there, but you’ll see them in the skimme baskets, French drains, bird baths and kiddie pools.

“If you see movement in water, mosquitos won’t usually breed there,” Cowden said. “Larvae are so sensitive to movement. For water that you can’t eliminate, put in mosquito dunks, broken into fourths. They are biological control, bacteria that only affect mosquitos and black flies and their larvae. Put them in water bowls, pool skimmers, buckets and rain barrels.”

Cowden has been using a hose-end mosquito spray in his own yard that works pretty well, he said.

For sprays “Off is your best bet,” Cowden said. “The more percentage of DEET the longer it will last. If you’re going to be outside for just a little while, 10 percent is OK. But if you’re going to be outside two to four hours, use 25 percent. Lemongrass works really well on some species and not as well on others.”

So when will it get bad enough for the city to spray?

“The public safety policy is to spray only when West Nile positive is detected,” Cowden said. “We spray half mile to mile surrounding the positive trap. With the first positive, it’s half mile, consecutive is full mile.

“The city uses Permethrin, which is essentially no risk to humans or dogs,” he said. “You would essentially have to drink the raw product (to feel sick). We do suggest you bring your cats inside. The nervous system of cats is a little sensitive.”

Cities in Florida and Louisiana will spray for nuisance mosquitos, Cowden said, but the decision is left up to local government.

“I don’t think anyone else in Tarrant County does it,” he said. “Each spraying is in the thousands of dollars. People have to decide if that’s worth it to them. Each spraying kills 60 to 90 percent of mosquitoes. It’s effective if mosquitoes are not resistant.

When temperatures went below 0 in February, a lot of people thought it would cut down on the mosquito crop, but probably not, Cowden said.

“They are amazing at surviving,” he said. “It shows how resilient they are. Heat plays a factor and the rain, especially for the nuisance mosquitoes.”

The swarms descending on the city now are likely due to the recent rain. Mosquitos take three days to a week to hatch and can live for two weeks. The swarms surrounding Mansfield are likely the spawn of the millions hatched in May when the area was drenched.

Normal rainfall for the area is 4.33 inches in May, said Allison Prater, meteorologist for National Weather Service in Fort Worth. May 2021 recorded 7.36 inches.

This month is behind with .46 inches recorded. Normal rainfall for the month of June is 1.27 inches. So far this year, the area has 17.07 inches of rain, just over the normal 17.72 inches.

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