WSBT 22 First Alert Weather: Battle of the Bugs
ST. JOSEPH COUNTY —
To say it's already been a buggy season is an understatement. Some of us were getting bitten as early as March!
Is there a connection between the bugs and our warm, wet winter? How bad will the rest of the summer be?
First Alert Meteorologist Ed Russo has been bugging the experts for answers.
Since January, every month has been either wetter than normal, warmer than normal, or both.
This has had an effect on the area's bug population, and not in a good way.
You're outside, trying to enjoy yourself, and you hear that nagging, bugging sound in your ear. Something you wouldn't expect to hear until later in the season.
It's already been a very buggy season and we can blame our warm, wet winter for that.
"The reasons why warmer weather and wetter weather usually lead to higher mosquito populations is because water's required for mosquitoes to develop and the warmer weather will allow those younger, immature stages to develop faster and they have a higher probability of survival to the adult stage,” said Notre Dame biologist, Nicole Achee.
Water acts as the body in which mosquitoes grow to their adult stage.
First, the female lays her eggs and within a few days they hatch into larvae.
A few days later the larvae mature into pupae, which is the final stage for the mosquito as it transforms into the adult. The whole process takes 7-10 days.
The more water bodies that exist, and the warmer they are, the higher probability that mosquitoes will thrive.
The presence of certain water bodies can aid in disease carrying mosquitoes.
"So, the ones that we traditionally think of for disease vectors for those mosquitoes that cause human disease, those really breed more in larger bodies of water. So think of swimming pools that are not being used, that are not chlorinated or gutters. Or you could think of also, larger ditches, septic systems that are not active. Those are the types of water bodies that usually are those mosquitoes that cause the most human disease,” said Achee.
So how warm and wet have the past few months been?
January was 5.3 degrees above normal in temps and 1.05" above normal in precipitation.
February was 9.05 degrees above normal in temps and 1.70" above normal in precipitation.
March and April continued the warm and wet trend, though the months weren't as drastic.
These warm and wet conditions also make it easier for mosquitoes to feed.
"Typically, those mosquitoes require blood for a development. The animals that they feed on usually are more active if there's warmer weather or earlier warmer weather and so all of those conditions combined, the availability of all the right environmental conditions, as well as a higher or more active blood meal host population, puts the mosquitoes with their human hosts or animal hosts together much sooner and a higher probability,” Achee said.
So now that the stage is set for a buggier mosquito season, what can you do to protect yourself and your family from getting bitten?
There's no fool-proof way of preventing all bites, but you can at least make the situation more tolerable.
Remove standing water, check for items that hold water, stay inside at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active, wear long-sleeved shirts, and long pants, and apply insect repellent that contains DEET.
Use repellents that contain only 10-percent DEET on children and make sure everyone washes their hands to avoid getting any of the repellent in the eyes or mouth.
With all of this in mind, are there any positives that a buggier season has on the environment?
There may not be any direct positive impacts on humans, but biting insects serve as some of the primary food sources for bats, birds, and many fish.