I was reading a post recently and some of my Facebook friends were complaining about nasty mosquito bites and how itchy they are... well it's not your imagination there are more bugs and yes their bites are way worse here's why....

Justin Sullivan/Getty
Justin Sullivan/Getty

Here's a letter from the Benton County Mosquito Control

Thanks for the inquiry…I’ll see if I can provide any insight.

  1. The mosquitoes are definitely worse this year around the Yakima River system.  The abundant snowpack, which is good in many ways, can cause issues with mosquito populations.  Roughly speaking we have two main groups of mosquitoes (but trap about 12 different species); “floodwater” and “permanent site” mosquitoes.  Floodwater mosquitoes, as the name implies, need a rise in water level.

Here’s how it works:  The female “floodwater” mosquito (which is the one that “bites”, males don’t) lays her eggs in moist soil in anticipation of a rise in water level.  This placing of eggs can happen days or years prior to the eggs actually being covered by water.  If the eggs don’t receive water quickly, then they dry out and stay in the soil just waiting for the right water level and the proper water temps to start the process.  They get covered by water,  re-hydrate and hatch.

Floodwater mosquitoes usually hatch in large numbers.   They are usually aggressive and “hard-biters”….mainly because their method is to overwhelm by numbers so they don’t care if you know they are there or not.  Other species are “sneakier” and try to avoid detection and don’t bite as hard.  Plus they (floodwater mosquitoes) aren’t as concerned about going after humans or animals during the daytime.  Most species wait until it cools down (around sunset) to become active, but floodwater mosquitoes will seek a blood source out any time of the day if it is nearby.  Add to this that floodwater mosquitoes are usually strong fliers (as mosquitoes go), so they can spread out; they do not just stay near the river.

Probably the only positive is that they are not believed to be effective at transmitting West Nile virus or other mosquito borne illness that we would be concerned about.

So, with all the snowpack, we’ve had many rise/fall situations with the Yakima River.  Plus the flooding we had last year happened early in the year, so water temp was cooler and we didn’t see much hatch off.  And two years ago, we had a drought (no flooding).  So, we had a stockpile of eggs just waiting to hatch.

  1. As for the bites itching more than usual, I do not have a scientific answer.  If I had to guess (and I usually don’t like to guess), I would say it could be because we are experiencing more Culiseta inornata this year.  inornata is not a floodwater mosquito, but rather a permanent water site (or semi-permanent water site) mosquito.  We don’t normally trap many of these mosquitoes, but this year we have seen them much more often and in more areas than “normal”.

So why might this explain the extra itchiness?  When the female mosquito “bites” (she actually pierces, cuts and pumps blood out…but “bite” is much easier to say/write) she injects an anti-coagulant, found in her saliva, to keep the blood from clotting.  The body reacts to these foreign proteins found in her saliva and we get a bump and it itches.  With any type of reaction, our bodies usually either becomes more accustomed to the irritant (thereby having less of a reaction the next time) or one can develop increasing reactions (we probably all know someone that simply cannot be around or eat certain things anymore that they once could).  Mosquito bites are similar.  I have read about scientists, who back in the day, used their arms to feed mosquitoes that they were rearing (growing/raising in labs) for studies and tests (they don’t use that particular method much anymore) and that after these repeated multiple exposures they would get to a point, where they would not “react” to bites any longer…at least in the sense that they would not get much of a bump or itch.

So, using pure speculation (please take with large grain of salt), it could be that with exposure to mosquitoes that we aren’t normally exposed to (specifically proteins found in the saliva for that specific species) and with possibly not having as much exposure over the last two years, certain people are having an increased reaction.

I have heard the same complaints about the severity of reactions and I’ve been pondering that question myself.

I hope that helps at least a little and should you have any additional questions, please contact me directly.

Wow zombie mosquitoes....


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