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Mosquitoes are expected to be bad this season, and county officials are urging residents to take precautions.
"I think it's gonna' be a monster," said Levy County Director of Parks and Recreation and mosquito control Matt Weldon about the swarms of biting insects he predicts will be an issue during coming months.
Florida, with about 80 known species inhabiting the state, is no stranger to the mosquito, but recent rains and rising temperatures guarantee the problematic pests will be out in droves.
"There's so much water, it's hard to keep up," Weldon said. "There's places I haven't seen water at in quite a long time."
Weldon said his staff has been concentrating its efforts in treating standing water in areas such as Bronson, Gulf Hammock, Inglis and Yankeetown by adding gambezi minnows, also known as the eastern mosquitofish.
The fish are known for eating large quantities of mosquito larvae and are considered an effective way to control populations.
Still, Weldon said the biggest issue when it comes to out-of-control mosquito populations stems from rain-gathering containers that people leave around their homes or businesses.
"One tire can raise enough mosquitoes to drive you and your neighbors crazy."
Weldon recommended that people take some time to turn containers over, drill holes in them or simply throw them out. Debris-filled gutters, leaky outdoor faucets, boats and even bird baths can breed thousands of mosquitoes, which, in warm weather, can go from an egg to an adult in three days time.
And mosquitoes are not just a nuisance. In Florida, they've been shown to carry at least seven different types of harmful diseases, including West Nile virus, Dengue and Yellow fevers.
Besides keeping standing water away from one's home, officials like Weldon recommend things such as wearing light colored, loose-fitting clothing when outdoors. Mosquitoes are more attracted to dark colored clothing, according to some, and it's easier for them to bite through tight-fitting clothes. Long sleeves and pants are recommended, as well, whenever practical.
Insect repellents are effective, too. Experts agree that products containing the chemical DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon and eucalyptus work best, though caution should be used to keep such products only on exposed skin and away from eyes, nostrils and lips.
Exposure to mosquitoes can also be reduced by monitoring the time of day one happens to be outdoors. Most mosquitoes are most active between dusk and dawn.
Fore more information on mosquitoes, visit www.mosquito.ifas.ufl.edu.