The blood-sucking insects that herald summertime are already buzzing around Alachua County.
The Alachua County Health Department is expecting an influx of mosquitoes in the county this spring because of the unusually warm winter, said Paul Myers, administrator of the Alachua County Health Department.
Because of the influx and a drought, the county has already started to tell residents how to avoid diseases spread by mosquitoes, such as West Nile virus and Eastern Equine virus.
The county does not have a history of disease outbreak caused by mosquitoes. The last time a case of West Nile virus was reported in the county was in the summer of 2004, according to reportable disease statistics for Alachua County.
Myers said the county usually waits until May to send out prevention notices, but it sent out tips six weeks earlier this year.
“We are concerned,” Myers said. “Because of the mild winter, we didn’t see many hard freezes that substantially reduce the mosquito population, and now we are seeing even warmer weather and rain.”
Mosquitoes tend to breed in soil or standing water. Lots of standing water and little rain can mean more pests and diseases, said Jorge Rey, a UF professor of entomology and nematology at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory.
“The more water that is around, the more mosquitoes will breed,” Rey said.
But a lack of water doesn’t mean county residents can expect a decrease in mosquito bites or the threat of disease.
Some species live in storm drains, Rey said. When there is no rain, there is no water to flush the insects and their eggs down the drain, allowing them to reappear when the weather gets warm.
Birds, which can carry West Nile virus, and mosquitoes are more likely to flock toward damp areas when water is scarce. This increases the chances of a mosquito feeding off a bird that may carry the virus, Rey said.
To prepare for mosquitoes, residents should dump standing water on their properties in places such as flower pots, trash cans and recycle bins, said David Dame, a retired entomologist for the USDA.
If they apply bug repellant, Dame said, residents should apply it by hand.
“We’ve got to get ready,” Dame said. “Biting season is upon us.”
Contact Adrianna Paidas at [email protected].