The perfect swarm: "mega mosquitos" could be out in full force - WFLA News Channel 8

The perfect swarm: "mega mosquitos" could be out in full force this summer

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TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

"Mega mosquitos" could suck the fun out of spring and summertime around parts of the Bay area.

Scientists say there is a good chance the floodwater mosquito called Psorophora ciliata, commonly referred to as the gallinipper, could cause more problems than normal this year. A warm winter coupled with all of Tropical Storm Debby's waters last year could potentially create a mix for the perfect swarm.

"I wouldn't be surprised, given the numbers we saw last year," said University of Florida entomologist Phil Kaufman, an associate professor with UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. "When we hit the rainy cycle we may see that again."

Mosquito eggs can remain dry and dormant for years, until high waters cause them to hatch.

"We think there's a lot of eggs laying around right now ready to come out," said Dennis Cone, of Hometeam Pest Defense. "If you're in pasture areas or near pasture areas or woods, you're more apt to see them than say in an urban area."

Cone, who is in his 50s, has only seen two gallinippers in his career.

"You're not going to encounter them as much [as other mosquitos] but when you do... it's going to get your attention," he said. "When one of them lands on you... it looks like something out of a science fiction film."

The gallinipper, which is native to the entire eastern half of North America, can be up to 20 times the size of the typical Asian tiger mosquito and grow to the size of a quarter. Like other biting mosquitos, it's the females who are out for blood, because they need it for the protein to produce their eggs. Cone says the bad news is, they prefer mammals like us.

"It's about like a wasp sting," he said. "It would feel that way when one of them bites you."

The males live off nectar.

Gallinippers eat other mosquitos and don't appear to be as big of threat when it comes to heartworms for pets, or human diseases like West Nile Virus.

"They don't carry the diseases - at least that we know of - so there's are a couple good points about the mosquito if there can be a good one," Cone said.

Repellents with DEET can help ward off the mosquitos but Kaufman warns gallinippers can be more tolerant of the compound than smaller biting mosquitoes because they're so large.

Cone warns all mosquitos need just a tiny bit of water to start a breeding ground.

"Couple drops of water and they can breed in that," he said as he picked up the cap from a bottle of water. "A track left in a wet yard by a lawn mower... that's enough. The hoof print from some livestock could be enough of an area to cause a pool of water for breeding."

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