Recent downpours across the region have resulted in prime conditions for mosquitoes to proliferate, with several parts of the state witnessing heightened mosquito activity.
Dr. Sonja Swiger, a seasoned entomologist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and a faculty member of the Department of Entomology in Texas A&M’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, explains that the influx of mosquitoes can be a prolonged issue, fluctuating according to environmental changes.
Operating out of Stephenville, Swiger asserts that the kind of mosquitoes present, whether they are simply bothersome or carriers of diseases, hinges greatly on environmental factors. Availability and type of water, such as fresh floodwater in drainage areas, containers collecting water, or stagnant pools left from previous weather patterns, all influence the kind of mosquitoes that could be plaguing you and your loved ones.
Rising temperatures and drier climates have amplified worries amongst health officials regarding increasing numbers of disease-carrying mosquitoes. A malaria case has been reported in Cameron County, warns Swiger, and the detection of the West Nile virus is currently being supervised by public health authorities.
The Mosquito Surge
Rain can significantly amplify the mosquito population, notably when multiple storms drench and flood regions around the state, as Swiger points out.
“Considering the recent incessant rains, anticipate an upswing in mosquito activity,” she states. While the chief concern is disease-bearing species, the abundance of rain has generated numerous breeding grounds for floodwater and container species.
Swiger classifies mosquitoes into three types – floodwater, container, and stagnant – and they generally appear in sequence according to their preferred breeding conditions.
“Understanding the kind of mosquitoes you are dealing with, how to manage them around your home, and how to safeguard yourself and your family is crucial, as we are in the middle of mosquito season,” she says.
First Surge: Floodwater Mosquitoes
Floodwater mosquitoes, usually larger, more tenacious and relentless biters from sunrise to sunset, are the first to appear post rainfall, according to Swiger.
Prolonged rains saturate the soil and result in standing water in ditches and depressions in fields and lawns. Floodwater mosquito larvae emerge swiftly when water becomes accessible. The potential for standing water could broaden their habitat, affecting more people than usual.
Second Surge: Container Mosquitoes
Container mosquitoes, notably the Aedes species, recognizable by its black and white body and white striped legs, usually appear next. Females lay eggs in any water-bearing receptacles – from tires and buckets to wheelbarrows, unkempt pools, pet dishes, and trash cans.
“Checking your property for potential breeding grounds after rainfall is a good practice,” suggests Swiger.
Third Surge: Culex Mosquitoes
The Culex species, preferring stagnant pools of water with a high bacteria content, usually emerge as water levels lower and dry summer conditions prevail.
Predicting their emergence is challenging as their ideal breeding grounds can either be washed away by heavy rains or dried out by extreme heat, warns Swiger.
Cases of West Nile virus are reported annually in Texas. Control efforts primarily focus on managing mosquitoes carrying this virus. Diseases such as dengue and malaria are also of concern, with local transmission reported this year.
Mosquito Prevention Measures
Swiger recommends reducing mosquito populations in your area and using spray repellents for bite prevention. Long-sleeved clothing can also offer protection.
Repellent devices like Thermacell are effective in creating a protective barrier around individuals or smaller spaces. While certain plants are known to repel mosquitoes, the effectiveness is typically limited to the immediate vicinity of the plants.
“Using CDC-approved spray-on repellents like DEET, picaridin, lemon eucalyptus oil, IR3535 or 2-undecanone is the best precaution to take when outdoors for prolonged periods,” she advises.
Young children and pets should be kept away from mosquito-infested areas and repellent usage on them should be cautious, especially on babies.
“In this season, minimizing their potential exposure to mosquitoes is the best option,” she concludes.
Read more about mosquitoes on our Quick Guide to Controlling and Preventing Mosquitos.