This summer could bite.
Because of a wet spring, officials statewide have predicted a challenging mosquito season."It's going to be a real screamer," said Steve Romney, the director of Uintah County's mosquito abatement district.
Romney estimates that in his area, which includes portions of popular recreation destinations such as the Uinta Mountains and Flaming Gorge Reservoir, the mosquito population could be more than 150 percent of average.
Along the Wasatch Front, optimism and estimates run approximately the same.
"It will definitely be more of a problem, especially if it warms up quickly," said Gary Hatch, the director of Davis County's mosquito abatement district.
The wet weather, Hatch said, has created many more pools of water where mosquito eggs can incubate. Also, more pools increase the difficulty of abatement, because the districts can only treat so many pools before the season starts.
Most of the abatement efforts focus on killing the mosquito larvae with BTI, a human-safe toxin that only affects mosquitoes. Other measures - such as consistent water management and spraying the air to kill adult mosquitoes - help but don't provide the same results as killing larvae.
Even during wet years, Utah mosquito abatement programs have an exceptional success rate, often killing more than 90 percent of the larvae.
That percentage is all relative, however.
"Leaving 10 percent of the millions of mosquito larvae is still an awful lot," Hatch said.
And this year, most abatement officials say the larvae population has pushed into the billions and will continue increasing.
As of yet, however, most people haven't seen a problem. The wet weather has allowed the eggs a longer incubation period, which means a pleasant delay in the mosquito onslaught but a greater number of mosquitoes when they do arrive.
"The mosquitoes will move into town quite soon, and I expect quite a bit of them," said Sammie Dickson, Salt Lake County's abatement manager.
Until approximately Memorial Day, Dickson said, the most prevalent mosquito species bite throughout the day, so anyone participating in springtime outdoor activities should take heed. After that, however, a separate species that only works during the twilight hours will take over.
The problem will be especially bad for those living near large bodies of water, such as the Great Salt Lake, Dickson said.
"We try to control the mosquitoes as best we can," Dickson said, "but we can't get them all."
Hit breeding spots
Want to discourage mosquitoes from breeding around your house? Here are some tips:
- Dispose of unwanted cans and tires.
- Clean clogged roof gutters and drain flat roofs.
- Flush sump-pump pits weekly.
- Stock ornamental pools with fish.
- Change water in birdbaths, fountains and troughs twice a week.
- Clean and chlorinate swimming pools; when not regularly used, they should be emptied.
- Turn over unused wading pools and other containers that tend to collect rainwater.
- Cover containers tightly with window screen or plastic when storing rainwater for garden use during drought periods.
Source: New Jersey Agriculture Experiment Station
Locate mosquitoes on the Web
For those who find the Internet more attractive than the outdoors, have no fear: mosquitoes can still be found. The various sites range from the entertaining to the informative:
http://www.gardenweb.com - A resource for anyone interested in gardening, it has chat rooms, databases, a bookstore and references. A highly informative area for information about all bugs, including mosquitoes.
http://www.pestweb.com/insects - Information about most bugs, with extensive resources about mosquitoes. The site is well-organized and has a long list of links to mosquito abatement districts, information about diseases, mosquito facts and graphics.
http://www.mosquito.org - The home page for the American Mosquito Abatement District. This site has as much information as other sites but has more technical jargon and fewer links. A great site for professionals.
http://klab.agsci.colostate.edu - Although lacking information about common questions regarding mosquitoes, this site provides some great graphics and information about the various mosquito species. A perfect supplemental site.
http://members.aol.com/JRRaddatz/mosquito.htm - Although lacking in information, this site (formerly called "Mosquitoes Suck" until people complained) has a mosquito squishing screen saver and a chat room for people who hate mosquitoes.