Conditions in suburbs just too good for mosquitoes
The suburbs are gearing for a fight
The heavy rains last weekend mean swarms of mosquitoes are coming.
Rain levels for April and May were well above average at all four Chicago suburban airports and O'Hare International Airport, ranging from 1.83 inches above average at Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling to 5.11 inches above average at O'Hare.
"If that rainfall continues into June and July like it did last year, we could have another enormous nuisance mosquito outbreak like last year," said Mike Szyska, director of the Northwest Mosquito Abatement District.
Experts predict that in a week, millions of floodwater mosquitoes will reach bloodsucking adulthood and start bothering residents.
"Your floodwater mosquitoes are nasty, nasty biters and enjoy feeding on humans," said Laura McGowan, spokeswoman for Clarke in Roselle. Clarke supplies municipalities, abatement districts, forest preserves and golf courses with chemicals to fight the mosquito population.
Floodwaters, like the ones from the past weekend, release large numbers of mosquitoes all at once. When land that hasn't been flooded in a long time does flood, it awakens eggs that have been dormant for years. So mosquito eggs that have been building up for years hatch all at once.
These floodwater mosquitoes do not transmit the West Nile virus to humans, but their bites still leave the itchy red marks that signal the beginning of summer.
"It becomes very difficult to control them because treating this amount of water is challenging," Szyska said.
To combat the broods of mosquitoes that are on the way, mosquito abatement teams across the suburbs are putting chemicals in the ditches, retention areas and river overflows that these mosquitoes breed in.
These chemicals kill the mosquitoes while they are still in their larval state, before they grow wings or bite anyone.
The chemicals that are being used are poisonous only to mosquito and black fly larva and leave other wildlife unharmed.
The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County chooses to hold off spraying until monitors detect mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus. The district tests for mosquitoes in 200 spots throughout the county.
"Our main goal is to reduce harm to public health," said Erik Neidy, manager of public resources for the forest preserve.
To prevent bites, the Illinois Department of Public Health encourages residents to use insect repellent, avoid being outdoors during the dawn and dusk hours when mosquitoes are most active, and to wear long sleaves.
Szyska also suggests wearing lighter colors and repellent while gardening because turning the soil can awaken mosquitoes that mostly sleep during the day.
The same preventive measures along with getting rid of any stagnant water on property can also protect people from West Nile virus. The mosquitoes that are capable of transmitting the virus to humans are more active after mid-July because they can't survive in cooler temperatures.
"Awareness is a big thing. And, if people wear insect repellent and get rid of standing water, they greatly decrease their chances of getting sick," said Melaney Arnold, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health.
No cases of West Nile have been reported yet this year. Last year, the first case of West Nile virus in the state was reported in a bird in mid-May. The first human case wasn't reported until Aug. 31, but what this summer will be like is still up in the air.
"It's always difficult to predict the mosquito activity of a summer because a lot of it depends on the weather," Arnold said.