Still waters run deep with bugs

June 26, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

Since still waters are breeding grounds for mosquitoes, the insect is likely to flourish this year given the wet conditions the area has experienced over the past few months, an expert said Wednesday.

Michael Cantwell, entomologist with the Maryland Department of Agriculture, said, "This is the worst year I can recall as far as rainfall. This may very well develop into the worst year for mosquitoes."

A mosquito's lifespan is split into four stages, three of which are spent growing in still water, Cantwell said

When mosquitoes hatch from their eggs, they mate, the females feed on blood and then return to the water to lay their eggs, he said.


He said since the county is emerging from three years of drought conditions, the mosquito population so far this year is "overwhelming."

Cantwell said the flood plains of larger creeks and still water are ideal settings for mosquito breeding.

He said the mosquito population in Washington County traditionally is not as high as populations in other Maryland counties, because water drains pretty easily here.

Laurie Bucher, the Washington County Health Department's director of environmental health, said her department will monitor some breeding grounds throughout the county, like the C&O Canal and areas in Williamsport near the Potomac River, to track the mosquito population.

Cantwell said it's a fair guess that an increased mosquito population will increase the chances that more mosquito-borne diseases will be spread.

Bucher said that in about a week the department will place mosquito traps, made of dry ice, fans and lights, so they can send the trapped mosquitoes to be tested for diseases such as West Nile virus, malaria, Eastern equine encephalitis and LaCrosse encephalitis.

Bucher said the Maryland Department of Agriculture will continue to spray for mosquitoes in 14 to 15 communities within the county through October. She said the health department will no longer test birds for West Nile because the disease is established in the county.

Last year, one person, 34 birds and three horses tested positive for West Nile virus, she said.

"It's important to be aware that West Nile is here, it's not going anywhere and it's going to stay, but there are precautions you can take," she said.

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