Rainy stretch breeds big mosquito menace

Insect-control crews working overtime this year

Myles Caryer of Toledo Area Sanitary District Mosquito Control checks his next stop after spraying for mosquitoes on Wolfinger Road.
Myles Caryer of Toledo Area Sanitary District Mosquito Control checks his next stop after spraying for mosquitoes on Wolfinger Road.

The mosquitoes were just too much.

The bugs bothered, buzzed, and bit. Finally, after about an hour of fending off a mighty mosquito army, the May family surrendered Pearson Park to the winged enemy.

They packed up their fishing gear and left the Oregon battleground for the comfort of home.

“They’re terrible,” said Renee May of Toledo as she and her three children readied their retreat. “We are getting bit up.”

The Toledo Area Sanitary District’s monitoring of mosquito populations has found an “above average” number this season, prompting overtime work last week for mosquito-control crews, said Lee Mitchell, a sanitary district biologist.

“People have been telling me ... that they’ve been finding the mosquito larvae everywhere,” he said.


■ Use bug repellent and follow the label directions for the sprays.

■ Make sure doors are closed and window screens aren’t torn.

■ Empty pails, watering cans, toys, and other objects that collect standing water.

■ Turn over buckets so water can’t collect in them.

■ Change water in bird baths regularly.

■ Clean rain gutters.

■ Keep weeds trimmed short.

■ Wear light-colored, long-sleeved clothing, especially around dusk or dawn, when mosquitoes are likely to be most active.

SOURCE: Ohio Department of Health and Toledo-Lucas County Health Department

The culprit? All that rain in June and early July left standing water — ideal insect breeding grounds — in ditches and backyards.

“Normally we get a rain and in a couple days it would dry up,” said Mr. Mitchell. “But when everything is flooded ... it kind of recharges that whole system, and it keeps the water there, and the mosquitoes just love that.”

The sanitary district sets mosquito traps and counts the number captured. It aims to have fewer than 20 adult female mosquitoes in each trap. If a trap has more, it means mosquitoes may be a noticeable nuisance.

One day last week, four of the 14 traps had more than the target number, and another day nine traps were over target, Mr. Mitchell said. One trap held 170 adult female mosquitoes, and he expects an even higher count from some of the traps set earlier this week.

“That tells us that’s a problem,” he said.

The sanitary district treats larvae and sprays for adult mosquitoes throughout the county, a service funded by property taxes.

Jerry Welker runs a Maumee-based business that offers a barrier spray to keep mosquitoes away. Mosquito Terminators of Toledo launched last year, and this is his first full summer season.

“I’m getting calls like from people with children saying, ‘I can’t even go outside with my kids,’ ” he said.

Mosquitoes are plentiful everywhere, but those living near creeks or other water have the worst of it, said Mr. Welker, who has clients from around the region, including Oregon, Waterville, Oak Harbor, and Defiance.

The Toledo-Lucas County Health Department has urged people to take precautions against mosquitoes by spraying on bug repellent and emptying containers that hold standing water. Eric Zgodzinski, director of community and environmental health services, said the rainy weather kept people cooped up inside, but they are emerging to masses of mosquitoes — which buzzed about in big numbers in his own backyard last weekend.

Mosquitoes can carry diseases including West Nile virus, and last year was an especially bad year. Ohio Department of Health spokesman Tessie Pollock said it’s “hard to say” what kind of threat West Nile might pose this season.

“The weather can change so much. We can’t call it a severe season or a mild season,” she said.

So far, just one group of mosquitoes, in Franklin County, has tested positive for West Nile, she said. At this point last summer, there had been 68 positive tests, she said.

In 2012, the Ohio Department of Health reported 121 human cases of West Nile and seven fatalities, up substantially from 2011, when there were 21 human cases and one death. West Nile also hit Michigan hard last year, with 17 fatalities and 202 human cases, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health.

So far this year, neither state has reported any West Nile human cases. Last year’s weather patterns prompted the particularly bad West Nile outbreak.

“The theory is that the heavy rains in the spring followed by a dry, hot summer created a perfect breeding grounds for the culex mosquito,” Ms. Pollock said. “We had a very extreme West Nile season, and we knew it early on in the season.”

The state health department stopped testing mosquitoes for the virus after federal funding dropped from $265,500 in 2011 to $87,500 this year. Some local agencies are still doing their own testing and reporting the results to the Ohio Department of Health, which will continue to track the number of human West Nile cases, Ms. Pollock said.

The sanitary district sends mosquitoes it collects for West Nile testing to an outside firm, an expense estimated to cost about $1,200 this season. Mr. Mitchell expects to know results from the first local testing next week.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com, 419-724-6065, or on Twitter @vanmccray.