Mosquitoes thrive after rainfall

The heavy rains that caused flooding and road closures over the past month have now led to another nuisance in north central Iowa: mosquitoes.

Webster County residents may have noticed an increase in the number of mosquitoes as they’ve gone outside to enjoy the summer weather.

Karen Hansen, a naturalist with Webster County Conservation, said this can all be traced to the water that has accumulated in the county since a series of storms last month.

She added that there are different ways mosquitoes reproduce.

“Some of them have their eggs already in the soil and when the water comes, they are ready to hatch,” Hansen said. “There are others that lay their eggs in water. Since there has been plenty of rainfall this year, we’re not surprised that we have more mosquitoes.”

Mosquito larvae thrive in stagnant pools of water, according to Erin Ford, shared naturalist with Webster County Conservation and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

“The female feeds on blood and the males eat nectar and plant sap,” Ford said. “The insect populations may be in your yard or an area where you need to get rid of stagnant water.”

Hansen agreed.

“If you have water that’s standing stagnant for awhile in a bucket, it would be wise to dump it,” she said.

Kristine Condon, health officer with the Webster County Health Department, said people should also pay attention to what they have in their yards.

“If you have a birdbath or a children’s pool, clean that once a week so they’re not accumulating,” she said. “Make sure your gutters are clean and the screens for windows are securely in place so they can’t get in.”

Condon went on to say that while mosquitoes can carry disease, there’s nothing to suggest that there’s anything to be concerned about in Webster County.

“As long as you use proper repellents and take proper precautions, everyone should be OK,” she said.

Condon said repellent will only work if it has DEET in it.

“Make sure you read the directions on the back, especially with children because some say they’re only for kids 3 and older,” Condon said. “Wear long clothing when it’s not too hot. Loose long clothing is very good at preventing bites.”

Though it seems like there are more mosquitoes than previous years, Ken Holscher, an associate professor with Iowa State University’s Department of Entomology, said his department has conducted studies that show that’s not true.

“If we take a look at this year compared to last years populations, we were actually higher last year in the spring,” Holscher said. “We forget that last spring we had a lot of precipitation but remember last summer when it got hot and dry.”

Whether the mosquitoes remain for the rest of the summer or not will depend on whether the waters recede or remain, according to Holscher.

He added there’s not much that can be done about eliminating mosquitoes.

“You can eliminate all standing water sources in your backyard and technically eliminate the mosquitoes,” Holscher said. “The problem is that mosquitoes don’t abide by property lines. If they’re being produced in adjacent areas you won’t notice the difference.”