Break out the Off: Michigan plagued by mosquito outbreak

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ADA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Mosquito Mike is not exactly an expert in the history of mosquito outbreaks, despite his title and even though he’s paid by a company called Mosquito Joe to eliminate the little bloodsuckers from West Michigan yards.

The blood sport starts the second he and sidekick Mosquito Scott step from their mosquito-busters van with a backpack full of spray.

“I’m batting all the mosquitoes out of the way,” ‘Mosquito’ Mike Kraft, said. “Every time, we’re getting swarmed by them all the time.

“It’s bad. They’re everywhere.”

But he can’t exactly compare this outbreak to previous years.

“I’ve been with the company about a month now,” he said. “I just moved to the area.”

Michigan State University entomology professor Ned Walker is an expert in mosquitoes and studies vector-borne diseases.

He said this is the worst year he has seen in a few.

“The mosquitoes are horrendous,” Walker said. “This is a huge mosquito outbreak. It’s the kind where you walk in the daytime and they bother you. Normally mosquitoes are biting in the evening, but there are just so many around.”

The Saginaw County Mosquito Abatement Commission uses traps to track its prey. Director Bill Stankuszek said that traps that usually catch 10 to 25 mosquitoes at a time are now getting more than 1,000.

A rig used to capture mosquitoes to help determine population size and whether populations are carrying diseases like West Nile virus. (July 13, 2021)

“It’s been an exceptional year for us,” he said. “Some of our residents are calling it the worst ever. It’s something we don’t expect every year.”

The MSU expert blames the weather: a drought in the spring that kept mosquito eggs from hatching, then flooding rains last month that hatched them all at the same time. He refers to them as summer floodwater mosquitoes.

“Because of all that rain, we sort of stimulated the environment to produce these mosquitoes and that’s what people are experiencing broadly across lower Michigan,” Walker said.

While the females will go after your blood, he said these aren’t the dangerous mosquitoes that carry West Nile or Eastern equine encephalitis viruses. Those, he said, could come later.

“It’s a real quandary for Michiganders because here we’ve just gone through our terrible COVID experience and we can finally come outside and socially get together and enjoy the outdoors and each other’s company, then the mosquitoes come along,” Walker said.

At Roselle Park in Ada Township Tuesday, swarms of mosquitoes drove Matt VanVliet and his daughter, Audree, from a walking path.

“They’re like swarming you,” VanVliet said, just before they landed on his back, chest and left shoulder. “They’re all over.”

Walker said that this batch of mosquitoes should die out in about two weeks, though more rains could lead to another outbreak.

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