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Mosquitoes thriving despite dry weather
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Hot, dry weather has taken a toll of many things in home lawns this summer, but the list does not include mosquitoes.
While mosquito populations in general are much lower in dry weather, the species most commonly found around homes usually does not decline significantly, said Mississippi State University Extension Service entomologist Blake Layton.
“The Southern house mosquito is the species we usually find around our homes,” Layton said. “They breed in stagnant water, which has higher concentrations of organic matter as it dries, and this is what the Southern house mosquito likes.”
Because people encounter this species the most, Southern house mosquitoes are both a pest and a possible source of disease.
“We definitely do not need to drop our guard concerning mosquitoes, even during dry weather, because we are most likely to be bitten by the Southern house mosquito, and they are the species most likely to carry the West Nile virus,” Layton said.
West Nile virus poses little risk for normally healthy people, but senior citizens and those with compromised immune systems can develop encephalitis or meningitis.
As of Aug. 22, the Mississippi State Department of Health reported 23 confirmed cases of West Nile virus in the state.
Confirmed cases of the disease are below the same time last year, despite high numbers of the Southern house mosquito, said Mississippi Department of Health medical entomologist Jerome Goddard.
“Our trap numbers show a large increase in Southern house mosquito numbers right now,” he said. “Whether or not that will mean more West Nile cases in the next month, we just don't know.”
Health department records show there were 184 West Nile cases reported in Mississippi last year. The West Nile virus season usually peaks in July, August and September.
Personal protective measures against the mosquitoes that carry the disease include removing sources of standing water, avoiding mosquito prone areas, wearing protective clothing and using effective insect repellents.
“Repellents containing DEET work well and provide several hours of protection,” Goddard said. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also lists the chemical picaridin as an effective alternative to DEET and for those looking for an effective herbal alternative, there is oil of lemon eucalyptus.”