NAPLES — They’re back, and they’re out for blood.
Mosquitoes swarmed Southwest Florida in recent days, and officials with Collier and Lee counties’ mosquito control districts said there’s no way to tell whether residents will catch a break from bug bites any time soon.
Black salt marsh mosquitoes came out in full force over the weekend primarily because of activity along the coast.
“We had a large outbreak in the middle of May, and this one didn’t start until the middle of June,” said Shelly Redovan, deputy director of Lee County Mosquito Control District. “It coincides with high tides, full moons and the winds.”
Add a drought — which leaves more dry land for mosquitoes to lay eggs — into that equation, and Redovan said you’ve created an environment perfect for a mosquito outbreak.
“It’s extremely challenging in Lee County, right now,” she said.
It’s challenging everywhere, said Frank Van Essen, executive director of the Collier County Mosquito Control District. Collier County, he said, is experiencing high numbers of mosquitoes from Barefoot Beach to the north and Marco Island to the south.
Salt marsh mosquitoes don’t just stick around the coast, though. Van Essen said the mosquitoes have been found in the southern part of Golden Gate Estates.
“They can fly quite a good distance,” he said. “The black salt marsh mosquito … is very aggressive. It will kind of chase you.”
Chasing leads to biting, and Deb Milsap, a spokeswoman for Collier County’s health department, said there are steps residents can take to ensure they aren’t eaten alive by the pesky bugs.
Milsap said people should avoid going out at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are at their worst; drain things, like buckets or flower pots, that can hold standing water; wear long sleeves, pants and shoes and socks when out during the buggiest times; and use a insect repellent that contains Deet.
“That’s still the best active ingredient for them and it lasts the longest,” Van Essen said.
Milsap said Deet has been deemed safe as long as it is used the way it is recommended.
Sally Stein, director of public programs at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, said the nature preserve hasn’t experienced an influx in mosquitoes.
“We haven’t had a huge problem with mosquitoes yet,” Stein said. “It isn’t bad until we get a lot of rain. After the rains the mosquitoes start breeding.”
Kirby Wilson, a spokesman for Collier-Seminole State Park, said the mosquitoes at the park are very active.
“We are very used to mosquito antics this time of year and are prepared to deal with it,” Wilson said in an email. “They are more plentiful this year it seems, but we still manage.”
Wilson said visitors are informed the mosquitoes could impact their visit, and are told to take precautions before heading out on the trails or the river. Wilson said park employees try to explain “mosquitoes are part of the Everglades ecosystem.”
The salt marsh mosquitoes are the first wave of mosquitoes Southwest Floridians are expected to experience this summer. Van Essen said once the summer rains start, the fresh water mosquito season will officially begin.
There are 43 different varieties of fresh water mosquitoes in Collier County. Van Essen said the control district is only concerned about the three or four varieties that carry disease.
Fresh water mosquitoes are known to carry West Nile virus and Dengue fever.
Last year, Collier County had two reported cases of West Nile in humans, and one person died after contracting the disease.
Stein said once the fresh water mosquitoes come out, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary employees and volunteers warn visitors that the bugs could be biting.
Mosquito control district officials said they’re taking whatever measures necessary to alleviate the pain. Planes were out in Collier County earlier this week spraying the coast and some of inland Collier County, while Lee County Mosquito Control District employees took to the air and the streets to spray.
That isn’t stopping people from calling though. Van Essen said he received about 250 calls Monday from residents complaining about the mosquitoes. The number was closer to 365 in Lee County late Monday afternoon.
“It makes it hard for people to be patient when there are mosquitoes buzzing around,” Redovan said. “Some people are understanding, others are hard to communicate with because (they’re frustrated). Mosquitoes are good about pulling out strong emotions.”