Mar. 31, 2005 COLLEGE STATION – Ahhh – summertime in Texas. Long days. Warm, balmy breezes. Plenty of outdoor activities. But also plenty of mosquitoes.
"In the summer, we have to concern ourselves – both from the standpoint of annoyance and from disease – with mosquitoes," said Dr. Jim Olson, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station entomologist.
"We never run out of mosquitoes in Texas; we just change species with the season," Olson said. "We have some species that are active in the winter, in fall and summer, with the greatest number being the summertime species."
Unfortunately, the best time to enjoy the great outdoors is also when mosquitoes peak in numbers, annoyance and the potential of disease transmission.
"The concern now is the continued recycling of West Nile virus," Olson said.
Two summertime species are of particular concern, especially in the eastern part of the state.
The southern house mosquito, or Culex quinquefasciatus, breeds as larvae and pupae in septic water either above or below ground. The adults even overwinter in those locations.
When temperatures stay above 60 F at night and in the 70-80 F range during the day – usually in June – the eastern half of the state begins having problems with the Asian tiger mosquito, or Aedes albopictus, Olson said.
This little black and white mosquito breeds in any kind of artificial container and in tree holes, and is the primary cause of annoyance to people in urban areas.
"Unlike most mosquitoes that are looking for a blood feed after dark, the Asian tiger mosquito is a daytime feeder," Olson said. "It particularly likes to feed in the ‘long-shadow' hours of late afternoon into the early evening. That is the same time that people coming home from their jobs like to use their backyards. So the mosquito and the human get together, and it's not a pleasant experience for the human."
The Asian tiger mosquito breeds in artificial containers such as flower pots and the collection dishes underneath, in ornamental plants that collect water or in tires. Rain gutters can be another source of standing water.
To avoid being bitten, Olson advised, "Cover up with clothes and repellent when you're outside."
He also recommended the three "P"s:
- Protect yourself by wearing protective clothing and a repellent of choice, and avoid being outside when mosquitoes are active. Olson suggested wearing clothing that is loose-fitting.
"With tight-fitting clothing, mosquitoes can drill right through the fabric," he said.
Clothing should cover arms and legs completely and be light-colored because mosquitoes are attracted to darker hues, he said.
- Prevent mosquito breeding around the house by removing all sources of standing water. Don't forget to clean out rain gutters.
- Prevent mosquitoes from getting inside by properly screening and sealing doors and windows. Many human infections of West Nile and other encephalitis viruses are caused by bites either in the home or places close by, such as yards and patios, he said.
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