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Mosquito season in Pa. could be worst in decades, experts say

By Adam Klein, 69 News Photojournalist
Published On: May 31 2012 03:02:07 PM CDT
Updated On: May 31 2012 05:07:11 PM CDT

Our mild winter may be coming back to bite us, literally. The mosquito population is set to surge this year, according to bug experts.

EXETER TWP., Pa. -

Our mild winter may be coming back to bite us, literally. The mosquito population is set to surge this year, according to bug experts.

Experts believe this year could be the worst mosquito season they have seen in decades.

"It's not a time for panic. It's just a time for caution," said Kevin Witmier, West Nile virus technician for the Berks County Conservation District.

May has been huge for district technicians like Witmier. In Exeter and Washington townships, they have found mosquitoes that tested positive for the West Nile virus.

"Mosquito that's carrying the West Nile virus, in most cases, has already taken a blood meal, typically from a bird that was a carrier for the virus," said Witmier, who added that this is the earliest that West Nile has been detected in Berks County and the entire state since 2000, when testing began.

"The traps I set are used to catch mosquitoes that can then be sent to the Harrisburg DEP lab to be tested for West Nile virus," said Witmier.

Because of the mild winter and spring rain, Witmier said mosquitoes are laying their eggs earlier than usual. Without enough freezing temperatures, he said mosquito eggs did not die. In turn, tremendous amounts of breeding took place.

"Reduction of mosquito breeding habitat is the best possible way to control the mosquito population," said Witmier.

The best way to protect yourself, Witmier said, is by wearing mosquito repellant. There are smartphone apps that claim to use ultrasonic sound to keep the bugs away. The downside is the app will scare away your pets, too.

Witmier recommended people change any still water on their properties, in places like bird baths, flower pots and kiddy pools, at least once a week. Mosquitoes come out, Witmier said, most during dusk and dawn.