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Summer Feeding Frenzy: The Mosquitoes' Revenge

By Kim Bellware in News on Aug 13, 2010 8:20PM

Image via the USDA
In what should come as a surprise to absolutely no one who has endured a feeding frenzy at the Pritzker Pavillion or any number of this summer’s street festivals, health officials are reporting this year’s mosquito problem as one of the worst in decades. The Tribune quotes Laura McGowan, spokeswoman for Clarke Environmental Mosquito Management of suburban Roselle as saying, "This is the worst mosquito outbreak in 20 years. The (mosquito) traps are catching three to four times the amount that's usually considered a nuisance."

Mosquito abatement districts are working in high gear as the heat, rain and humidity from the past few days have contributed to conditions that make for ideal mosquito proliferation of the “flood-water” variety—the aggressive, but non health-threatening mosquito that has been feeding on Chicagoland residents. The Tribune notes the small consolation in the news is that the wet weather has kept a more dangerous type of mosquito at bay—the northern house mosquito that carries the potentially deadly West Nile Virus.

In 2002, when the virus was first reported in Illinois, the airborne disease has contributed to the deaths of 67 residents. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, as of 2004, the number of deaths reported fell to four.

Communities in the area are taking abatement efforts to contain the sprawling bug population, with Oak Park starting nighttime spraying, and towns from Wheaton to Bolingbrook taking similar action, spraying mosquito poison, dispatching crews to treat forest areas and attacking areas of standing water where mosquitoes breed.

The City of Chicago has seen its efforts slowed due to the glut of foreclosed homes, particularly on the city’s far South Side. Douglas Wright, general manager of the South Cook County Mosquito Abatement District told the Tribune, “You have so many abandoned homes where pools aren't being cared for and storm gutters are not being attended to. It just makes this whole situation that much tougher.”

Between the summertime crime spikes, the city’s busted finances and now the mosquito infestation, Chicago residents can sit tight in anticipation of that plague of locusts. In the meantime, city residents can also call 311 to report mosquito hangouts/West Nile indicators: standing water, dead birds and high grass/weeds.