Mosquitoes create a buzz in Chicago

By J_Howard

This summer, Chicagoans have seen above average rainfall and temperatures, and as a result, the perfect conditions for mosquitoes to thrive and be in full force.

The mosquito population has boomed in the Chicago area this year, more than has been seen in years past according to Tim Hadac, director of public information for the Chicago Department of Public Health.

“Anecdotally, the volume of mosquitoes we are finding are definitely higher than what we’ve seen in the past,” Hadac said.

Michael Slamecka, biologist for the South Cook County Mosquito Abatement District, said in his nine years with the district, this year’s population is the worst he has experienced.

“Pretty much everything was ideal for  [the mosquitoes] this summer,” Slamecka said.  “It was really hot and really wet, and there is just a whole bunch of them out there right now.”

The mosquitoes that are around as a result of the summer weather are called Floodwater mosquitoes. These mosquitoes lay eggs in low areas of the ground, which stay there until heavy rains come. Hadac explained the eggs could be in the ground for months waiting for large amounts of rain.

“The extremely heavy rains from July and August have produced a bumper crop of mosquitoes,” Hadac said. “They are out, and they are biting and everyone notices.”

Though they cause annoying and itchy bites, the Floodwater mosquitoes do not typically transmit diseases.

“Yes they are annoying, they are nuisances, they swarm,” Hadac said. “These are the type of mosquitoes that will ruin your picnic, but they won’t infect you with anything that will make you sick.”

The Northern House mosquitoes, as opposed to Floodwater mosquitoes, carry the West Nile virus, and these mosquitoes need hot and dry weather to survive.

“It needs those types of conditions to thrive, so what the rain actually did, it disrupted the breeding of the Northern House mosquito,” Hadac said.

He said although Floodwater mosquitoes do not carry the West Nile virus, it doesn’t mean exposure to the virus is gone for good.

Joseph Conlon, technical adviser of the American Mosquito Control Association, said the peak season for the spread of the virus is not until mid-to-late September and lasts until mid-October.

“You are coming to that time of year West Nile virus really comes out,” Conlon said. “It is generally a late season virus.”

Hadac said the virus first appeared in Chicago in 2001, and since then the city has taken preventative measures to not only stop the spread of the virus but also kill the source.

“We have more than 60 mosquito traps throughout the city, and we check those traps throughout the week,” Hadac said.

He also said the city checks the traps to see the number and type of mosquitoes that have been caught, and if the virus is present.

“Without a doubt, the traps are showing huge increases in the number of mosquitoes this year,” Hadac said.

With the large influx of mosquitoes, Chicago residents should be aware of preventative measures.

Slamecka said to not go out past dusk unless necessary and to wear bug spray.

Hadac said mosquitoes  may also be drawn to the colors in clothes.

“Mosquitoes seem not to be attracted or even repelled by lighter colored clothing, [but] they seem to love when you are wearing a black shirt,” Hadac said.

Staying informed is one of the best ways to prevent getting bit.

“The more you know within reason, the better you can protect yourself,” Hadac said.