Battling the Blood Suckers: What’s behind the mosquito invasion and what it’ll mean this summer

BATON ROUGE – An onslaught of mosquitoes has swept across southeast Louisiana, fueled by a scorching dry summer followed by a relatively wet winter. The persistent buzzing of mosquitoes has become a familiar sound for those venturing outdoors as winter transitions to spring.

LSU AgCenter entomologist Kristen Healy explains, “This is the time of year when the weather warms up, and day length increases, signaling the start of mosquito activity.”

Experts attribute the surge in mosquito populations to last year’s historic drought. Mosquitoes laid eggs during the drought that remained dormant until recent flooding rains in January triggered their hatching.

“Sections of East Baton Rouge Parish are experiencing very large populations of the Northern floodwater mosquito right now,” Dr. Michael Becker, head of the East Baton Rouge Parish mosquito abatement and rodent control department said. “With recent rains, we now have seen a very large population emerge particularly in the southern and eastern parts of the parish. This species prefers cooler weather and can fly more than a mile each night.”

Does this early mosquito invasion mean we’re in for a long, itchy summer? Not necessarily, Healy says. 

“We can never truly predict how bad a mosquito season will be. But, it’s almost always driven by precipitation and temperature,” said Healy. 

Crane Fly

The deep South is not only witnessing a mosquito surge; crane flies are also more prevalent than usual. Despite their nickname “Mosquito Hawk,” these insects do not bite nor consume mosquitoes.

“I wouldn’t say we have more craneflies than normal as we do tend to see large numbers coming out in the spring,” Healy noted. “But as mentioned with mosquitoes, temperature and rainfall often contribute to the numbers we see every year.”

As Louisiana braces for another cool snap, Healy anticipates mosquitoes seeking shelter closer to homes. This means residents may encounter these bloodsuckers near doors and around leaf piles. Interestingly, mosquitoes are adapting better to cooler weather.

“Most of the same species we have in Louisiana, they also have in the northern parts of the U.S. and even Canada,” Healy said. “They are well adapted to cold environments, and in Louisiana, it is not unusual to see them fly on warm days and then bunker down in sheltered habitats on a colder day.”

In East Baton Rouge Parish, nighttime spraying from trucks has commenced to control mosquito populations. Dr. Becker emphasizes that residential spraying has limited effectiveness, urging individuals to protect themselves with insect repellent and clothing when outdoors.

Healy concurs, emphasizing that homeowners can take action by eliminating standing water around their properties. As the state prepares for potential mosquito challenges, proactive measures and personal protection remain crucial in curbing the impact of these buzzing invaders.

Download the Unfiltered with Kiran app from the Apple App Store and Google Play to stay updated on the latest news across the Capital area. 

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