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This Week’s Creature Feature ... Skeeter Season

After an active spring, the native mosquito populations
are naturally declining. But not the Asian tiger mosquito.

A rainy March and April kept mosquito slappers busy.
    “We had populations in larger numbers than expected this spring,” says Mike Cantwell, chief of Maryland Department of Agriculture’s Mosquito Control Program. “High rainfall brought out exceptionally large broods of woodland species. But these are single-generation species. Once they’re done, you don’t see them until next year.”
    At the same time, higher than normal tides on salt marshes meant more flooding and more salt marsh mosquitoes.
    “We did a lot of air spraying,” Cantwell says. “But things have quieted down.”
    That is, the native species are quieting down. They breed in wet natural environments. During drought-like conditions, water evaporates — and so do the native mosquitoes.
    Not so with the non-native Asian tiger mosquito. These tiny black-and-white pests are the likely culprits feeding on us in our back yards.
    “They are less affected by drought conditions,” Cantwell says. “Probably because we keep their habitat wet.”
    The non-native skeeters — first found in Maryland in 1987 — are different from our native species in two ways. First, they are persistent daytime biters. Second, they thrive in human-made breeding grounds. They prefer to lay their eggs in containers instead of natural habitats. Gutters, toys, birdbaths, anything collecting rainwater are perfect breeding grounds.
    You can keep the ankle nippers at bay by dumping standing water from flower pots, tarps, trash cans and toys, and regularly cleaning bird baths and your pet’s food and water bowls.
    And wait for the first hard frost of winter, when all mosquitoes freeze their little arses off and leave us alone until spring.

For more information:
Maryland Department of Agriculture, www.mda.state.md.us
Maryland Department of Natural Resources, www.dnr.maryland.gov/

Mosquitoes are a vector agent that carries disease-causing viruses and parasites from person to person without exhibiting symptoms themselves. While it's no relation to the standard barfly, the Asian Tiger mosquito is the true invasive species of urban mosquito tormenting large cities. Here's what you should fear: the Asian Tiger mosquito can distribute the potentially terminal disease known as dengue fever.