Mosquito influx in the North Bay
MARIN COUNTY, Calif. (KTVU) - It's time to check yards for standing water- in buckets, ponds and pools- because mosquitos are expected to be rampant this year.
Vector control agencies across the Bay Area are deluged with calls, earlier than normal.
They blame the winter rain, which left abundant water behind, then the sudden arrival of hot weather.
Mosquitos can reproduce in just a bottle cap of water, so conditions are ripe for an explosion of the pesky insects and their itchy welts.
"Most people don't call us until they start getting bitten by mosquitos," said Nizza Sequeira of the Marin / Sonoma Mosquito and Vector Control District.
Sequeira explains, mosquitos are present all year, but are less active in cooler months, and less noticeable since people are indoors more.
"So most people see more mosquitos during the summer because they're going outside," said Sequeira, " so check your backyard, look under bushes, in overgrown grass, because we're finding buckets, barrels, and trash still holding water."
Friday evening, Dave Livingston was happy to see a vector control technician arrive at his five acre Petaluma property.
Livingston was riding his ATV a few days ago when he found himself inside a 15 foot cloud of insects.
"A big swarm caught me off guard, so I got a mouthful of something, and I thought it was mosquitos, " Livingston told technician Chris Mohrman.
In fact, mosquitos don't swarm, so the clusters commonly seen are gnats or tiny insects called midges.
"Some of the midges, the non-biting midges can look just like a mosquito, about the same size as a mosquito," explained Mohrman, showing Livingston a brochure with both bugs pictured.
Swarms are more common this time of year, especially when people mow tall grass.
It's adding to the calls for service; Marin / Sonoma is already getting more than 100 calls a day.
"And this year, it didn't help with the 90 degree heat we had just when everything was starting up," observed Mohrman.
Livingston's rural property has a pond and creek where mosquitos have bred, and he has needed mosquito-eating fish in the past to eradicate them.
But in any setting, the tiny black rafts, about the size of a pumpkin seed, can hold as many as four hundred eggs even in small amounts of water.
And the larvae - which resemble a pollywog- take flight in about a week.
Livingston was relieved the water sampling on his land showed no mosquito larvae, especially with his coon hound Bristol romping around.
The Bay Area is home to about two dozen mosquito species, and one is particularly dangerous for dogs who contract heartworm from it's sting.
The tree-hole mosquito breeds in water that collects in tree trunks.
Livingston already had one pet die that way.
"Basically they have to almost put the dog to sleep to try to cure the heartworm," said Livingston, "and my dog didn't make it through, so I lost the dog."
Since most of us can't tell a midge from a mosquito, the best advice is inspect often, and dump any standing water.
And don't look to the so-called "mosquito-eater" to help.
As it turns out, the crane fly doesn't even have a mouth.
"They don't actually eat mosquitos, they're just another fly," said Mohrman, "and I don't know how they got that reputation but we have to clarify that all the time."
To avoid the bite, and possible exposure to West Nile Virus, it's best to wear repellent and long sleeves near mosquitos.