The combination of rain over the last few weeks and the recent heat could bring a big mosquito population to Iowa. The warmer temperatures will cause huge batches of mosquito eggs to hatch soon, but it’s not clear if the bugs will be biting all summer long.
Iowa State entomologist Ken Holscher says the key ingredient is rain. "If we continue to have enough rain that keeps the soil saturated to the extent that even a quarter-inch rain will stand and puddle for a week to 10 days, that’s enough to kick out a bunch of mosquitoes," Holscher said.
At this time last year, when Iowa had record flooding, there were fears of a massive mosquito boom. But, Holscher says it didn’t turn out that way because things stayed fairly dry the rest of the summer. There are roughly 50 breeds of mosquitoes in Iowa, but Holscher say the ones that bite people generally don’t carry West Nile Virus.
"Our most abundant mosquito doesn’t like to feed on birds and that’s where West Nile Virus is picked up from," Holscher said. "That’s fortunate for us, if they loved to feed on birds as much as they did us – we’d have a lot more West Nile Virus. But, typically we don’t start hearing about a lot of West Nile Virus until late summer, so I’m not sure if this is going to be a good West Nile Virus year or not."
People can protect themselves from the pest by avoiding the outdoors during the mosquitoes’ peek breeding times and using an insect repellent containing DEET. Holscher is asking parents to safely the apply the product on their children. "I’m not a big fan of the aerosol type (repellents) where parents tell the kids to shut their eyes, close their mouth, hold their arms out and turn slowly and they just kind of hose ’em down with the stuff. I’m not a big fan of that," Holscher said.
He says products containing a lower level of DEET are still effective and may be safer to use. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that repellents with DEET should not be used on infants less than two months old.
More info about mosquitoes and West Nile Virus here.