Ugh, the mosquitos are here. And they're in full force.
It may be unrequited, but mosquitoes love Texas. In fact, Texas is home to an estimated 85 species of the flying, biting blood suckers.
And, thanks to a relatively mild winter combined with April’s above-normal rainfall, all those mosquitos are swarming the city early in high numbers.
Aaron Urbanek, senior health officer with Austin’s Environmental Vector Control unit, says the abundant April showers are welcomed, but with that rain, comes a surplus of skeeters.
“We just picked up some traps today and in those traps, we had a higher than normal level of mosquitos than what we would normally see for the beginning of the season,” he said.
The Vector Control unit monitors the mosquito population across Travis County by trapping them and testing them for various diseases such as West Nile Virus and Zika. West Nile has been detected in Travis County in prior years, but, so far, no signs of the disease have been detected this year.
Nonetheless, it's best to beware of the annoying bugs.
According to Dr. Alex Wild, curator of UT's insect collection, the Aedes mosquito is particularly pesky.
“So the ones that are most annoying, those little stripey ones, are the ones that really get on most people's radar and in our yards,” Wild said. “[There] are actually two species in the genus Aedes and neither of those mosquitoes is native to our area. I mean, these are things that love cities, they love breeding in old beer cans and gutters that haven't been drained. They’re very much an urban mosquito.”
Not only does the Aedes mosquito aggressively breed in our backyard and bite us for a blood meal, it can also carry diseases such as West Nile.
According to the city, most people will not get sick if infected with West Nile Virus, but about 20% will develop flu-like symptoms such as fever, headaches, swollen lymph glands and a skin rash on the trunk of the body. About 1 in 150 people infected will develop severe illness.
While the mosquitos are here to stay through the many warm months ahead, the City of Austin says folks can mitigate their impact by remembering the “Four D’s”:
- DRAIN any standing water around your property. It takes only a bottle cap full of water for mosquitos to breed. Be sure to empty clogged rain gutters, flowerpots, toys and anything else outside that might be holding trapped water.
- Wear DEET or other insect repellent when outside. The EPA has a list of recommended bug sprays.
- DRESS appropriately when outside. Light-colored, loose-fitting, long-sleeve clothing is best.
- Be extra mindful of mosquitoes at DUSK AND DAWN — the Aedes species that carry West Nile are most active at those times.