The rain waters drenching Baton Rouge for the past two weekends have signaled to a new generation of mosquitoes that it’s time to hatch, spread their wings and go on the hunt.
Mosquitoes have multiplied in Baton Rouge since rain began inundating the city in recent weeks after a long dry spell. The city-parish’s Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control department has been spraying, but the mosquitoes will keep hatching, swarming and laying more eggs as long as the rainwater keeps coming and forming pools.
Officials at the mosquito abatement office report that phones have been ringing nonstop with complaints. Agency director Todd Walker said his crews are already trying to tackle the problem, but more rain means that they cannot spray for mosquitoes as effectively.
Michelle Pylant, who lives in the Tara subdivision, said the infestation outside her home is remarkable.
“I’ve never seen this many in my life,” she said.
Pylant tried to walk her dog, Peaches, on Thursday night when a black mass of mosquitoes around her house concerned her. She threw on long sleeves and a scarf, and started making mad dashes in and out of her house as she sprayed Hot Shot at the hundreds of mosquitoes peppering her carport.
The next morning, Pylant saw that she had killed some mosquitoes but there were still plenty of live ones around her house. She worries about them biting her 14-year-old Pomeranian/toy poodle mix.
The sudden onslaught of autumn mosquitoes happens from time to time in Baton Rouge, Walker said. The species of mosquitoes hatching now is different from the ones that people generally associate with summertime.
The mosquitoes hatching now, known as Aedes vexans, prefer the somewhat cooler weather of fall and spring. The real trigger that brings out the mosquitoes in full force is the rain, according to Walker.
The mosquitoes lay eggs that will only hatch when they can sense that they are being submersed by flood waters, Walker said. And the mosquitoes are patient, with eggs sometimes waiting years before the perfect flood comes along and incites them to hatch.
“They lay their eggs in an area that becomes wet,” said LSU Agricultural Center professor Kristen Healy. “They will not hatch until there’s enough water in that habitat.”
Healy said the eggs have been waiting through the drought for rain to come along, which is why they are all hatching at the same time.
“These mosquitoes like to feed in the daytime and they’re aggressive and they can be very annoying,” Walker said.
One of the biggest challenges Walker faces is that they cannot spray for bugs while it’s raining. Walker said the office plane is ready to go, but Baton Rouge is already expecting more rain this weekend.
He predicted that the mosquitoes should be gone in no more than two weeks. Healy said the upcoming cooler temperatures and shorter days of winter often signal to mosquitoes that they should not hatch.
The good news, according to Walker and Healy, is that this species of mosquitoes is usually not known to carry the West Nile virus.
“There’s always going to be some small risk associated with it, but the floodwater (mosquitoes), we generally don’t associate with it,” Healy said.
Walker said the biggest effect on people will likely be itchy bug bites.
He suggested that people wear long sleeves and DEET to keep from getting bitten. He said it’s unlikely that people will be effective in getting rid of the mosquitoes by spraying them themselves.
Walker noted that the mosquito abatement center’s phone lines have been jammed and some of them are not working. He said people calling might need to try several times to get through, and suggested they email email@example.com if they cannot reach anyone on the phone.