NOVATO, Calif. (KTVU) - An invasion of mosquitoes has people slapping and scratching in Novato.
Even mosquito experts admit it's unusual.
"In my 18-year career I can count on one hand when I've seen this," said Erik Hawk, assistant manager of the Marin/Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District. "It's rare that something like this happens and we're not able to control them."
Pale marsh mosquitoes are a common spring and summer variety. But they descended on Novato almost two weeks ago, in a huge hatch-off, by the hundreds of thousands.
They came from the tidal marshes northeast of the city, on the Marin-Sonoma County line.
Thousands of acres of marsh are known breeding ground, and the habitat is treated by helicopter so mosquito larvae can't hatch. But this year, after unusually high tides, some areas were missed.
"In this particular situation, the mosquito larvae were so numerous and the water levels got high enough, we just weren't able to get all of them," said Hawk.
So a huge brood of mosquitoes hatched and flew off looking for blood meals, finding them in nearby Novato.
"It's really bad right now, it's like there's a big bloom or something going on," said Deborah Dacquisto, out for a stroll Thursday. "I had welts and they were biting me through my leggings."
Dacquisto and her sister were sticking to their nightly walk, but lathering on insect repellent beforehand.
"We were being eaten by mosquitoes, they were swarming, and bouncing off us and they were big mosquitoes," said Laura Eipp, also of Novato.
On social media, residents have been sharing stories and photos of being "eaten alive."
The species is a strong flier and aggressive biter. Children have been pulled off playgrounds and outdoor sports canceled.
"I have 42, maybe 43 mosquito bites," said Ella Hensler, 7, who had to see a doctor after getting so many bites at soccer practice. "They got better since I took medicine."
Now, Ella and her brothers are sprayed with a mist of essential oils before leaving the house.
"I think the mosquito situation is calming down a little bit," said her mom Jamie Hensler. "I'm not noticing it as much but we're also being more pro-active."
The MSMVCD is also being pro-active: spraying at parks and schools during overnight hours and treating homes where requested.
With such an abundance of mosquitoes, results are mixed.
"It's been the same since the guy came and sprayed our property," said Black Point resident Marva LeMar. "Maybe it was a little better for one day after he sprayed, but that was it."
LeMar has suffered numerous bites on her hands and fingers while taking her dogs out.
Her husband is annoyed for different reasons.
"They're make a high-pitched screech," said Rue LeMar, "and with my hearing aids I hear a real good buzz when they're near my ears."
With calls to technicians running five times the normal rate, relief is in sight.
The mosquitoes only live about a month and the females -after their big feed- will return to the tidal marshes to lay eggs.
Vector control will be watching to make sure the cycle doesn't repeat, and believes the invasion has peaked.
"We believe we are on the tail end and the populations are starting to decline," said Nicole Sequeira, spokeswoman for the Marin/Sonoma Mosquito & Vector Control District. "It may not seem like it's getting better, but it is."
Widespread fogging hasn't been an option because weather hasn't been optimum, either too windy, or this week, rainy. While they are not implicated in the spread of West Nile virus, residents are still urged to protect themselves by limiting outdoor activities where mosquitoes are present, wearing long sleeves and pants, and using mosquito repellents. Problems can be reported at 1-800-231-3236 or online.