On Outdoors: Rains blamed for mosquito crop, West Nile not a concern

By Jim Hagerty
Staff Writer

While officials aren’t able to locate the command post that seems to be sending millions of mosquitoes to battle, there’s little doubt the Chicago/Rockford region has been a war zone where humans have had little chance this summer.

According to health officials, heavy rains in the region have created a bumper crop of mosquitoes, which continue to multiply quickly around an unusual number of floodwaters. Although bites are plentiful and repellents hot sellers, there seems to be no evidence potentially deadly Culex mosquitoes are part of the blood-thirsty assault of 2010.

Culex mosquitoes have been known to carry a number of diseases, most notably West Nile virus and malaria. No human cases of West Nile have been reported so far, and the swarms seem to be nothing more than hungry floodwater pests.

However, with an above average number of storms this year, even the average back yard can produce dozens of bites per minute.

Mosquito traps set by abatement officials are seeing increases of up to 45 percent in some areas. The majority of mosquitoes caught have been of the floodwater variety. However, the Culex genus has been recorded.

In 2009, five people contracted West Nile believed to be associated with Culex bites. Officials say the worst year for the virus was 2002, when 884 cases were reported in Illinois.

Culex mosquitoes are slightly different than the average floodwater mosquito.

“If it’s buzzing around your ears, it’s probably not a Culex,” Illinois Extension entomologist Philip Nixon said. “(Culex mosquitoes) are sneaky, quiet biters.”

Protecting against floodwater and Culex mosquitoes involves common precautions such as the use of DEET, lemon oil, eucalyptus and other agents. Dumping standing water, especially from birdbaths and rain barrels, reduces breeding areas around homes. However, avoiding the outdoors during sunset and dusk seems to be best reprieve this year.

Outdoors news and photos can be sent directly to Jim Hagerty at jim.hagerty@rockrivertimes.com. Glossies and hard-copy press kits can be mailed or delivered to The Rock River Times’ office at 128 N. Church St., Rockford, IL 61101. Jim can be reached at (815) 964-9767.

From the Aug. 25-31, 2010 issue

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