PEORIA — Feeling attacked by biting bugs? The recent wet weather has led to an abundance of nuisance mosquitoes and buffalo gnats, according to Melaney Arnold, a spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Illinois has two main types of mosquitoes, floodwater and vector. Floodwater mosquitoes lay their eggs on the wet soil and typically appear a few weeks after flooding or heavy rains. While they are a vicious biter, they don’t typically carry diseases.
As the floodwaters and puddles start to recede though, there could be pockets of warm, standing water. These small puddles are where vector mosquitoes such as Culex species lay their eggs. Culex mosquitoes is the type that carries the West Nile virus, said Sara Sparkman with the Tazewell County Health Department.
West Nile virus is endemic in Illinois and people need to protect themselves, Sparkman said. It’s important to remove any standing water, change out birdbaths daily, repair any holes in screens on windows and doors and wear insect repellent. Mosquito activity varies by species, but is usually at its peak around dusk and dawn, the evening hours, so it’s especially important then, she said.
People get West Nile disease from the bite of an infected mosquito. A mosquito becomes infected by biting a bird that carries the virus. West Nile virus is not spread by person-to-person contact or directly from birds to people.
There were two pools of water that tested positive for West Nile last year in Tazewell County, but that doesn’t mean there’s an increased chance this year, there’s “no rhyme or reason, one year to the next” Sparkman said.
As of June 4, three counties in Illinois have tested positive for the virus in mosquito traps. DuPage County was the first one this year, followed by Will and Cook counties.
On Thursday, Peoria City/County Health Department sent in its first dead bird to be tested for West Nile virus, said Carey Panier, director of environmental health at Peoria City/County Health Department.
Dead birds, primarily crows and blue jays, that don’t show any trauma are tested for the virus. If you find one of these birds, do not touch it directly and call your local health department.
So while the wet weather is leading to a surge of nuisance mosquitoes, if the weather stays somewhat rainy, there will be less stagnant water and therefore fewer of the mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus.
“It’s all very weather dependent,” Arnold said.