Mosquito season 2019 has been relatively quiet compared with past years, but local health authorities expect more bites as the August sun beams hotter.
“With this heat wave that started (Wednesday), we could see an increase in mosquito activity,” Gregg County Health Department Administrative Assistant A.J. Harris said.
County and city of Longview officials are reminding residents about the four D’s — Deet, drain, dusk and dawn — as in using lots of mosquito repellent with the ingredient Deet, drain all standing water and avoid going outside during dusk and dawn hours of the day.
City Environmental Health Manager Leisha Kidd-Brooks also is stressing the importance of larvicide, which is an insecticide that specifically targets insects in their larval life stage.
Kidd-Brooks credits the city’s recent larvicide efforts for fewer mosquito infestations noted in Longview and Gregg County so far this year, and she encouraged residents without larvicide to use baby oil or vegetable oil to smother mosquito larvae in water.
“It’s been very quiet,” Kidd-Brooks said. “Even our city-sourced complaints (about mosquitoes) have been minimal. I think I’ve seen on average of two (complaints) a month, and that’s clearly because of the education and the larviciding.”
She said she has typically gotten four to five complaints a month in previous summers.
Weather changes in 2019 also have played a factor in mosquito populations, Harris said.
Winter and spring brought at least two days of record rainfall, with flooding in April and May.
Total rainfall for the year is one-half inch below normal but nearly 4 inches above the precipitation recorded by this time last year, according to the National Weather Service.
“We had that early period when it rained, rained, rained, rained (and) rained,” Harris said. “Mosquitoes need the humidity and the moisture. They thrive on that, but they need standing water. Mosquitoes won’t lay their eggs in water that is running.”
Meanwhile, diseases most linked with mosquito bites — West Nile virus, encephalitis and the Zika virus — have been seemingly less active than past years, too, Harris said.
“I haven’t heard anything new about it,” he said. Scientists are “currently working on a vaccine for Zika (but) it hasn’t been approved by the Federal Drug Administration. I haven’t heard of any local cases” of the diseases.
Meteorologists with the National Weather Service have forecast sunny and hot temperatures for at least the next week, with temperatures ranging from 79 at nights to near 101 some days. Heat indices are expected to reach well into the 100s when mixed with the humidity and south winds.
If that weather patterns continues, beware of mosquito bites, Harris said.
“We could see an uprising in mosquitoes,” Harris said. “They hunt by body heat and people giving off carbon dioxide, so they use that to find their targets.”
And because people exhale or give off varied levels of carbon dioxide or other chemicals tracked my mosquitoes, “They do favor one (person) over another,” he said.
“Keep yourself protected. Keep the Deet handy. Wear long-sleeved clothes. Remember that mosquitoes bite at dusk and dawn, so avoid those times of the day,” Harris said.