Snowy winter and wet spring could lead to a banner year for mosquitoes and other bugs

Posted at 10:20 PM, Apr 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-30 00:20:21-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- This could be shaping up to be a bad year for mosquitoes and biting bugs, and experts say it's because the snowy winter and rainy spring is creating a larger amount of standing and  stagnant water.

The Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement Districthas been busy sending crews to various waterlogged places around the city and wetland areas beyond the airport.

On Monday, two abatement team members geared up on ATVs, and headed into a marshy field where about six inches of water covered the grass.

"We had a lot of snow pack, and we’re probably going to get a lot of runoff," said Quinten Salt, rural field supervisor. He said there's already quite a bit of water in the field from the rain.

"We'll basically go out when we see an area that’s flooded," he said.

They hopped off the ATVs and trudged around the swampy area, scooping up water to see what's in it.

"Right there, that's one," Salt said, pointing out a thin, wriggling little mosquito larva.

He explained that larvae live in marshy, stagnant water of which there is definitely no shortage of right now.

"That means there could be a lot of mosquitoes, if we get some good temperatures, and everything falls into place," Salt said. "It could be one of those years."

Salt bottled up a vial of larvae to take back to the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District lab, for a biologist to inspect.

Biologist Nadja Reissen inspected two of the larvae, and could quickly tell they were culex tarsalis.

The average person probably doesn't know the scientific name of that mosquito-- but they certainly have heard of the disease it can infect someone with.

"This is one of the species that can transmit West Nile virus," Reissen said.

Ary Faraji, Executive Director for the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District, said there's 26 kinds of mosquitoes in Salt Lake City. Of that, about five or six species cause them concern. Even then, he said there's only about two to three species they are most concerned about.

Culex tarsalis is one of them.

"It’s a flood water mosquito that’s going to accumulate its numbers, and it’s going to be really a big bother for us this season," he said.

Each mosquito can lay 300 eggs in a cycle. Multiply that by tens of thousands of mosquitoes—and it gives a good picture of just how many could be swarming around this year.

Faraji said they want to maintain tolerable levels so they can help maintain a quality of life for residents—and protect public health from pathogens.

“We want to get out there and treat as many mosquitoes as we can, so we don`t allow them to start accumulating their numbers for later on in the season,” he said.

Once the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District identifies a mosquito species in a particular place, they come up with a plan of action.

Because the cycle of a mosquito from egg to adult only takes a week, Faraji indicated they act fast—generally within 24 hours.

They apply pesticide from the air and the ground, in hopes of keeping the mosquitoes at bay.

For the field where Salt found the culex tarsalis larva, he said they’ll probably do a fly over and drop pesticide.

Faraji said if residents have standing water in their yards, they can call the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District at 801-355-9221 to come collect samples and treat the water if needed.

He recommends taking steps to protect against mosquito bites, like wearing long sleeves and pants and applying a CDC or FDA-approved insect repellent.

Here's a link to the CDC page on how to prevent mosquito bites.

The EPA website explains how to choose the best repellents and other ways to prevent bites from mosquitoes and ticks.