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The battle against the bugs

WORTHINGTON -- The rumors are true. It's a bad year for bugs -- so far, at least. Flooding from recent storms around the area has created a higher than normal population of mosquitoes. Where there has been a growing population of the pests, thoug...

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A mosquito is shown just about to bite. File photo

WORTHINGTON - The rumors are true. It’s a bad year for bugs - so far, at least. 

Flooding from recent storms around the area has created a higher than normal population of mosquitoes. Where there has been a growing population of the pests, though, it may not stay this bad through the whole summer.
“It certainly is bad right now with the mosquitoes due to the heavy rainfall, but as far as predicting how the rest of the summer will go, it all depends on rainfall,” University of Minnesota Extension Entomologist Jeffrey Hahn explained. “If the already flooded areas stay flooded, then we’re going to continue to see above-average numbers. However, if later in the season it becomes warm and dry, we’ll eventually start to see fewer of those main biting mosquitoes associated with the flooded areas.”

With more rainfall expected in the area, Hahn offered some ways folks can prevent themselves from being bit.
“It all comes down to personal protection, which primarily will be repellent such as DEET, and there are also different concentrations of DEET that will have long-lasting protection,” Hahn said.
“There are also some botanical products and ‘bite blockers’ that work, but they don’t last as long as DEET,” Hahn contributed. “If you’re only going to be outside for an hour or two that will protect you. However, if you’ll be outside for an extended period of time, then you should use something like DEET.”
Hahn said that the most active times of day for mosquitoes are dawn and dusk. They are mostly located near standing water and brushy areas, he added.
While many believe they have cure-all solutions to staying bite-free, Hahn dispelled some common rumors regarding prevention.
One common treatment used is bug “zappers,” which Hahn said is probably not the best way to keep mosquitoes away.
“I know a lot of people like to use the bug zappers, and feel a sense of satisfaction whenever they hear the little zap sound,” Hahn said. “The truth is, you’re catching other nighttime bugs rather than mosquitoes.”
Hahn said the electrified grid in the machine catches bugs such as moths, flies and beetles, and kills very few mosquitoes. He also discredited mosquito-repellent devices that use special sounds to try and scare away the irritating bug.
“There are many different varieties of these devices,” he said. “A common one I see is a device that supposedly makes the sound of a dragonfly, so that the idea is the mosquitoes won’t go near the sound because they don’t want to get killed by a dragonfly. This is just simply not true. There is no scientific research that supports these devices, so again I advise people to save their money.”
Hahn also stated that while there are many home remedies for mosquito repellent, people shouldn’t “put a lot of stock into it.” And while citronella candles are effective, he went on, getting the maximum effectiveness can be very costly.
“They do work, but you would almost need a cloud of that smoke to surround you for it to be fully effective,” Hahn explained.
Many people also believe certain clothing colors attract mosquitoes, but Hahn said the only pesky insects he knows to be attracted to dark colors are biting flies.
For folks having special outdoor events, Hahn explained that there is a quick fix.
“A lot of people ask me what they can do about their yard, and the truth is in the long run there really isn’t anything people can do,” he said. “But if someone is having a special event outside, you can treat that area a week in advance before the event. Most pest control companies will have insecticides that will kill mosquitoes, but that’s not something you can do week after week due to environmental issues.”
Hahn warned people that as the summer goes on - and if the weather becomes drier - people may see a decrease in the biting mosquitoes, but that doesn’t mean they’re out of the woods yet.
“While the common biting mosquito doesn’t carry diseases, the Culex mosquito possibly could carry the West Nile virus,” Hahn said. Minnesota saw a lot of West Nile cases last year, he noted, and people need to be aware even throughout the dry months. “Children and the elderly are especially prone to this, and the West Nile virus can manifest with different symptoms.”
Those symptoms include fever, headaches, body aches, frequent tiredness and joint pains.
“If people are having these symptoms in any way, they should seek a physician,” Hahn said. “There is no vaccine for West Nile, but there are medicines that do help with the symptoms.”
For more information, visit http://www.entomology.umn.edu .

Daily Globe Reporter Erin Trester may be reached at 376-7322.

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