We were walking quietly down a wooded path the other day with our cameras in hand, looking for early spring blooms to photograph. Mary Gayle, being the smarter of the group, decided we should slip on our bug suits before we headed out. Wow! Was she ever right.
We hadn't gone fifty yards when were were accosted by a swarm of mosquitos. I swear this advanced team tried to pick us up and take us back to the rest of the horde so they could all suck us dry! However, with these suits on we could walk in relative comfort while the angry blood-suckers hovered outside.
Mosquitos have four stages of development egg, larvae, pupa, and then adult. Most female mosquitos lay their eggs directly on the surface of still water. The water can be in puddles, tin cans, gutters, discarded tires, ponds, marshes or in the small deposits of liquids found in some plants. There are some mosquitos that will deposit eggs on moist surfaces near water and later rains stimulate the eggs to develop. Most mosquitos can have several generations in a year. When we have a lot of rain in the spring that provide small pools of water, the more mosquitos will reproduce and at a geometric rate.
Once they emerge from the aquatic stages and take flight, they mate soon after. The males do not bite. They receive all of their nourishment from plant nectar. The males live only a short time after they mate.
After they are impregnated, the females need blood for the eggs to develop. They seek out any animal to bite. From snakes and frogs to human beings, they must find blood or their eggs will go to waste. She then lays these developed eggs in any still water she can find.
The female then looks for another blood meal to produce another batch of eggs. Depending on the strength of the female, she can produce several batches of eggs in this manner without remating. And, when we have a long wet spring these eggs develop into mature adults and more mosquitos are produced.
Mosquitos can survive the winter in the egg stage. When the spring thaw comes and the water warms and the eggs hatch. Some adult mosquitos do make it through the winter if they can find warm places like a cellar, attic, barn, or other protected and cool locations.
Mosquitos can transmit diseases. The one that affects humans the most in this area is the Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Oddly enough a young female will not transmit this disease on her first batch of eggs. However, if she does pick up the disease on her first blood meal, she can transmit it to her second batch of eggs. Dogs are quite susceptible to the transmission of heartworm through mosquito bites. On the North Shore it is important to get your dogs treated regularly for the prevention of this often deadly disease given the amount of mosquitos we have. See your vet for help.
Several commercially available insecticides can be effective in controlling larval and adult mosquitoes. These chemicals are considered sufficiently safe for use by the public. Select a product whose label states that the material is effective against mosquito larvae or adults. For safe and effective use, follow the instructions for applying the material. The label lists those insects that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agrees are effectively controlled by the product. Read the label.
For use against adult mosquitoes, some liquid insecticides can be mixed according to direction and sprayed lightly on building foundations, hedges, low shrubbery, ground covers, and grasses. Do not overapply liquid insecticides - excess spray drips from the sprayed surfaces to the ground, here it is ineffective. The purpose of such sprays is to leave a fine deposit of insecticide on surfaces where mosquitoes rest. Such sprays are not effective for more than one or two days.
Some insecticides are available as premixed products or aerosol cans. These devices spray the insecticide as very small aerosol droplets that remain floating in the air and hit the flying mosquitoes. Apply the sprays upwind, so the droplets drift through the area here mosquito control is desired. Rather than applying too much of these aerosols initially, it is more practical to apply them briefly but periodically, thereby eliminating those mosquitoes that recently flew into the area.
If you ar hunting turkeys or doing a lot of outdoor walking in heavily infested areas, it is prudent to own a bug suit. The ones we use I bought out at the Fish and Game show in Worcester many years ago. The company is still in business and makes a superior product. I hardly ever mention brand names in this column because I do not want to be beholding to anyone. However, go on line and type in "The Original Bugshirt".
The shirt and pants are made with no-see-um mesh that keeps out the tiniest of bugs. The draws around the ankles and wrists really work. You can also wear a baseball cap inside which keeps the mesh away from your face. The zippers last forever under harsh conditions. I have worn this piece of gear from the northern tundra of Quebec to the rivers in South America and it has always been effective. The cost can range from $120 to $150 for the whole outfit. Fly fishermen who wear waders may want to buy only the top.
So, with a little bug spray and a bug suit you can enjoy the wiles of Maine in the early summer without getting drained.