Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Recent wet weather could lead to Saltmarsh mosquito invasion

VIRGINIA BEACH — The city could be facing an invasion in the coming weeks: An invasion by an army of millions of mosquitoes, who are hungry for human blood.

It remains to be seen though if the stars have aligned to make that invasion possible.

Heavy rains and high water – fueled by the powerful pull of a full moon – may have pushed tides in the city’s salt marshes high enough to reach areas where, below ground, having lain dormant for months, rest millions of eggs left behind by previous generations of the Saltmarsh mosquito.

Synchronous breeders, the Saltmarsh mosquito lays its eggs in the high parts of the salt water marshes, where, when the tides rise enough, the eggs get wet and the larvae hatch – all of them at the same time.

While it may or may not happen, the waters were high and the moon was full last week, so we’ll know soon, said Phil Meekins Jr., superintendent of the city’s Mosquito Control Program.

“They lay their eggs at the edge of the marsh. Sometimes the moon tide will push the water high enough and sometimes not. But with the high water, chances are that it will,” Meekins said.

The Saltmarsh mosquito is a strong flier and a very aggressive biter – especially the females. And they’re known to feed both night and day, but most actively at dusk or dawn.

While most mosquitoes never travel far from where they’re hatched in search of a meal, the Saltmarsh mosquito will range long distances from the marshes. In one study it as found that some of the Saltmarsh mosquitoes had travelled as far as 40 miles.

Salt marshes of course are found throughout the city, along Great Neck, Little Neck, Bay Colony, as well as Back Bay.

As if the thought of another few million mosquitoes flying around the city isn’t bad enough, there’s more.

“The places where they breed lie in protected areas,” Meekins said. “So we’re not allowed to go in there and treat.”

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Scientifically they’re known as Aedes sollicitans, which in Latin can mean “vexing” or “disturbing.” Its abdomen is dark, with pale bands and a pale “racing stripe” down the center. The legs too are dark with white bands and a racing stripe.

In addition to humans the Saltmarsh mosquito will feed on birds, reptiles, deer, rabbits, and other mammals – including dogs, cats, and horses.

They’re known to spread Eastern Equine Encephalitis and also dog heartworm.

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