You’re sitting on the backyard deck, cold one in hand, chatting with friends, watching the kids play in the yard, a pleasant end to a beautiful summer day, when SMACK! You feel the sharp sting of a mosquito on the back of your neck. SLAP! Another one nips your ankle. WHACK! That one dive bombs your shoulder and before you know it you feel like you’re the main course at a feeding frenzy. Another summer evening ruined by a thuggish pack of buzzing mosquitoes.
Most people place mosquitoes at the top of the summer pest hit list according to recent research by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). A major summer nuisance in the U.S., mosquitoes can carry West Nile virus, malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, encephalitis, and other diseases. In Africa, South America, Central America, Mexico and Asia, mosquitoes transmit disease to more than 70 million people annually, resulting in millions of deaths.
Largely nocturnal, mosquitoes are particularly active at dawn and dusk when they come out of their cool, dark hiding places to feed. Primarily nectar feeders, the females must also suck blood to nourish their eggs, which they lay in rafts of 100 or more on the surface of fresh or stagnant water. Within their 2-week to 2-month lifespan, females can lay a raft of eggs every third night. Most eggs hatch in 48 hours, the larvae reaching maturity in about 2 weeks, less if the weather is hot. A single busy female can create her own swarm in a matter of days!
A throwback to the age of dinosaurs, mosquitoes evolved 170 million years ago during the Jurassic era, supposedly in South America. Even back then the little buggers could pack a wallop, weighing in at three or more times their present size.
Next time: Coping with mosquitoes: What works and what doesn’t.