Super mosquito population depends on wet summer

City works to keep mosquitoes under control

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Ready for warmer weather? Just wait until the summer rains return.

Sure, that may mean hurricanes, lightning and afternoon storms. But that's also when scientists and bug experts predict a possible statewide uptick in a native population of super mosquitoes with super-painful bites.

The city of Jacksonville is working now to keep them under control in the future.

The feather-legged gallinipper is about 20 times the size of a normal mosquito.

"It's actually a very common mosquito in Jacksonville," entomologist Marah Clark said. "It's a floodwater species that tends to be in undeveloped and pasture-land areas."

The monster mosquito's scientific name is Psorophora ciliate. They're common to the entire eastern half of the U.S., but Florida's summer tropical rain has the potential to help yield huge populations.

Gallinippers deposit their eggs in the soil, where they can lie dormant for years in dry weather. But when rainwater accumulates in low-lying areas, particularly in rural areas, those eggs hatch.

The number of mosquitoes to expect in Jacksonville this year depends entirely on how wet the summer will be.

But Mosquito Control is already preparing to fight the big bug with extra spraying.

"In most cases, we'll try to attack this by air because it's a wider area," Clark said.

Some good news is the large mosquitoes are not known to spread diseases. They have been known to eat other mosquito larvae and usually die within a week.

Some bad news is they are vicious biters, leaving painful wounds. They are known to emerge after midsummer rain.

"It may seem a little more aggressive than another mosquitoes because you're actually seeing this mosquito," Clark said.

They are the largest species of biting mosquitoes in the U.S. The best way to avoid bites is to stay indoors during dusk and dawn and wear repellent with DEET, which can also prevent disease from other mosquito varieties.

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