Shaggy-legged gallinipper and other mosquitoes are on the prowl across Florida

Chad Gillis
Fort Myers News-Press

Add Off to the grocery list and get out the Thermacell: mosquitoes are on the prowl. 

High tides in May brought saltwater varieties to some coastal areas, and the system that became Tropical Storm Alex left the landscape soggy and flooded. 

So the freshwater mosquitoes that typically emerge in early July are already here. 

"We had all that rain come in last week and we're having lots of calls come in," said Ed Foley with the Lee County Mosquito Control District. "Just in the last couple of days we've had over 300 calls. We can't keep up." 

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Foley spearheads the planning and execution of the tracking and spraying for mosquitoes in Lee County. 

At his disposal is a computer network that tracks helicopters and trucks as they patrol and spray various areas. 

"We kind of call it our war room," said Foley as two helicopters servicing the Shell Point and north Cape Coral areas could be seen on a digital screen. "We also have a live feed for the truck so we have an idea of just what's going on and who's in any general area." 

The hot spots in Lee are along Bunche Beach, Shell Point, North Fort Myers, coastal north Cape Coral, Pine Island and Sanibel and Captiva, the maps showed. 

The Lovers Key State Park area in Bonita Springs is also being treated. 

This year, though, the biting bug season seems here a little early. 

"It seems like we're ahead of schedule," Foley said. "To me it seems like an earlier pattern. There was the storm that moved through, but even before that we had rain. Usually we see the high tides starting in May and really get consistent in June and then by July we'll see that afternoon rain pattern." 

Computer technology at Lee County Mosquito Control lets the user know where the helicopter fleet is spraying for mosquitos.

Lee County was earlier this year the driest county in the state.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, reports show that coastal Southwest Florida — from Marco Island north to Tampa Bay — was in a moderate drought just a few weeks ago. 

The East Coast is getting blanketed with biting bugs

The East Coast, too, is getting blanketed with biting bugs.  

Roger Jacobsen, director of the St. Lucie County Mosquito Control District, said the heavy rains from the front that became Tropical Storm Alex drenched this area of the Sunshine State as well. 

"After (Alex) a couple of storms pushed through that have contributed to our rainfall totals," Jacobsen said. "Fortunately the ground soaked up most of the water, but there is still water standing on the ground." 

Jacobsen said the saltmarsh variety flourish through the summer, until around September. 

Inland, the notorious shaggy-legged gallinipper (psorophora ciliata) is active, too. 

"They take a gallon of blood," Jacobsen said. "And it does seem a little early. It's been dry so long that all it takes is a little bit of water and you have mosquitoes." 

Jacobsen said the St. Lucie area can be ground zero for these nasty little pests. 

"Where we are, between Brevard all the way south to Martin, used to be known as Mosquito County; and it was called that because there were so many that nobody could do anything about it," he said. 

Anne Askew, a mosquito biologist 2 and Johan Elrubaie, a field inspector for Lee County Mosquito Control install a mosquito trap in  Buckingham on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. With recent rains and and standing water in some areas, the mosquito season is underway.

Saltmarsh mosquitoes in Collier County

In Collier County, the saltmarsh mosquitoes that are typically so thick in the Ten Thousand Islands/Marco Island area have not shown up in big numbers yet. 

"We've got a different situation going on here," said Robin King, spokeswoman for the Collier Mosquito Control District. "The saltmarsh mosquitoes, typically we see those really fire up in the spring when the high tides occur; but this year we have not seen really high numbers."

Saltwater mosquitoes are known for being more aggressive and for flying 25 miles or more to find blood sources. 

"We've seen small pockets but they've been pretty manageable for us," King said. "In previous years we've had almost biblical numbers coming from the Ten Thousand Islands." 

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Johan Elrubaie, a field inspector for Lee County Mosquito Control checks swales in Buckingham for mosquito larvae on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. With recent rains and and standing water in some areas, the mosquito season is underway.

Freshwater species will be even more active in a few weeks, when rain washes off the landscape and builds up in potholes, bird fountains and even tropical plants like bromeliads. 

"By mid-July the summer rains will fill up ditches and it will wash out the saltmarsh mosquitoes to the Gulf," King said. 

King said the district received about 8 inches of rain in the wake of Alex but that Collier County is relatively quiet on the bug side. 

"But we are seeing the afternoon rains and we're seeing some hots spots," she said. "Primarily they're are on the east side of Interstate 75." 

Connect with this reporter: @ChadEugene on Twitter.