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Mosquitoes

That buzzing you heard in the park over the weekend? It’s about to get closer. And louder.

Floodwaters bring more than property damage in their wake: Quad-City mosquito populations soon will be on the rise.

“I would expect a much higher level of mosquito activity as a result of the wet weather,” said Brian Ritter, executive director for Nahant Marsh, Davenport.

Flooded wooded areas provided breeding grounds for the insects, he said. They also thrive in areas where there is little competition, particularly in dirty water. In healthy bodies of water, predators that eat mosquitoes are plentiful, he said.

Dragonfly larvae and adults, for example, eat mosquitoes. “It’s great to have them,” Ritter said. Birds, fish and frogs eat them too, he said.

“When we get this abundance of water, mosquitoes can reproduce more quickly,’ he said.

Mosquitoes do best when there’s no competition in the water,” Ritter said. ”Your back yard tire with a little pool of water provides a breeding ground," he said.

Mosquitoes, which lay their eggs in the water, are "very pollution-tolerant, unfortunately.”

The marsh staff does not spray or control the nuisance insects; instead, “We try to protect the marsh and create a healthy water body” so frogs, dragonflies and swallows thrive. “We try to strike a balance.”

Be prepared

It's time to get repellents ready and wear long sleeves and pants in the evening, said Janet Hill, chief operating officer, Rock Island County Health Department.

“The good news is that mosquitoes commonly called floodwater mosquitoes typically do not carry disease,” she said. “In hot, dry weather — usually later in the summer — mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus breed in stagnant water and multiply rapidly."

The Illinois Department of Public Health advises the public to take some simple precautions to reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home and protect yourself from being bitten. Precautions include practicing the three “R’s” – reduce, repel and report:

Reduce exposure: Minimize being outdoors when mosquitoes are most active, especially between dusk and dawn. If you go outside during these times, take precautions. Even if mosquito numbers seem low, it takes only one bite from an infected mosquito to transmit a virus.

Make sure doors and windows have tight-fitting screens. Repair or replace screens that have tears or other openings. Try to keep doors and un-screened windows shut, especially at night.

Eliminate all sources of standing water where mosquitoes can breed, such as old tires, buckets and other receptacles. Refresh the water in bird baths, flowerpots and wading pools every couple of days.

Repel: When outdoors, wear shoes and socks, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, and apply insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535, according to label instructions. Consult a physician before using repellents on infants.

Report: Report dead birds to your local health department. In communities with organized mosquito control programs, contact your municipal government about areas of stagnant water in roadside ditches, flooded yards and similar locations that may produce mosquito breeding areas.

Keep pets safe, too

Mosquitoes can be a health threat to cats and dogs, too, says Dr. Kathy Van Buer, Animal Family Veterinary Care Center, Davenport.

The synthetic insecticide permethrin is safe for dogs but not for cats, Van Buer said.

Various treatments are available for dogs, she said. “Most times, mosquitoes don’t bite dogs too badly, but they can get bitten,” she said, especially on their stomachs, where there is not as much fur, and on their faces, ears and nose.

Van Buer suggested dog owners avoid going out at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are particularly actively.

Mosquitoes carry the threat of heart worms for dogs.

“Heart worms can be spread only through the bite of a mosquito,” said Dr. Erin H. Adley, Muscatine Veterinary Hospital.

Just one bite from an infected mosquito can pass along the heart worm larva, she said.

Once an infected mosquito bites a dog, it takes several months for the larva to grow into an adult heart worm that live in the animal’s heart, lungs and surrounding blood vessels, where the worms reproduce and can live for years.

“At our clinic this year, we’ve already treated 30 cases,” Van Buer said Wednesday.

Cats, too, can get heart worms, but it’s not as common, she said. Pills and topical applications can prevent heart worms in dogs.

Sometimes, she said, people use insect repellent towels on their dogs, but that is not recommended, she said.

Get out of my yard!

Sometimes, individuals and companies treat areas against mosquitoes before special events or on a long-term basis.

Kyle Gayman, with All Around Town Outdoor Services, has treated Quad-City environments for mosquitoes with a backpack blower that sprays or blows the solution on outdoor areas such as bushes, which need to dry before people or pets can be around it. “We have done it for a few of our residential customers, and they said it works pretty well,” he said.

Ryder Houck, of Bettendorf, specializes in mosquito control with the Mosquito Joe franchise of the Quad-Cities.

With the flood, “Water got to places it hasn’t been in years,” he said. “Most people think mosquito eggs die in the winter.” But they can lie dormant for 10 years or even more, hatching when they’re exposed to water and temperatures of 50 or higher for a few days in a row, he said.

It’s the female that bites, because it needs the protein and hemoglobin in human blood to lay eggs. “The female senses carbon dioxide humans give off,” he said.

It doesn’t take much water to provide an egg-laying environment he said: Water in a cap from a two-liter soda container allows a female mosquito to lay 300 eggs at once.

When it comes to spraying,  “You can help us by taking that wheelbarrow and dumping it out,” he said. The small pools of standing water may not look like a lot, but it doesn’t take much water for a mosquito to breed in, he said.

Houck says his crews use different treatment options, including an all-natural solution. “We use a combination of things to interrupt mosquito breeding habits,” he said. “

Crews can’t treat when it rains, so the first day of treatment this year was May 6, he said.

Often, clients who have their yards treated ask “‘What’s keeping mosquitoes from coming into my yard and biting me?”

“They are poor, weak flyers. They hop from tree to tree, bush to bush,” Houck said. ”They fly about 15-20 feet off the ground.”

Treatment season is May-October, he said.

Exterminator Rick Arguello, of Babe’s Termite & Pest Control, Inc., summed it up: “With any abundant moisture, the bugs just thrive.” This summer, he said, “It’s going to be like living in a rain forest.”

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Film critic/reporter since 1985 at Quad-City Times. Society of Professional Journalists, Broadcast Film Critics Association and Alliance of Women Film Journalists member. Member of St. Mark Lutheran Church.