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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Bug alert

By News staff

The ground is soggy and the bugs are breeding. The 11 inches of rain that has fallen since Memorial Day has filled pools in wooded areas, fields and roadsides, providing prime breeding grounds for mosquitoes, according to the Department of Environmental Management (DEM).

The rain also hatched eggs, creating a large crop of mosquitoes that are actively biting, DEM officials said. The state agency says the large number of mosquitoes has increased biting activity and people should protect themselves.

DEM’s mosquito abatement coordinator Alan Gettman said it's too early to predict whether this outbreak of mosquitoes will increase the possibility of mosquito-borne diseases such as eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile virus. The often-fatal EEE is prevalent later in the season as the mosquitoes get older, he said.

So far, all mosquitoes tested this year have been negative for EEE and West Nile virus. In Massachusetts, however, the first case of West Nile virus was confirmed June 28 from mosquitoes trapped in the town of Whitman.

To reduce the risk of exposure, the DEM urges the removal from yards any items that hold standing water, such as old tires, buckets, junk and debris. Also, make sure gutters are clean and drained. 

Mosquitoes breed in standing water. One cup of standing water can produce hundreds of mosquitoes.
The muggy weather has also created prime breeding conditions for ticks. So far, newborn tick counts are up 20 percent from 2012. Last year set a record for ticks in 19 years of monitoring by Thomas Mather, director of the University of Rhode Island’s center for vector-borne disease and its TickEncounter Resource Center.

Reports of dog ticks have also spiked.

Clusters of newborn, or nymphyl, deer tics have been reported. Nyphal deer ticks are about the size of poppy seeds. About 25 percent of nymphal ticks carry diseases such as Lyme disease. According to TickEncounter, “the newborn ticks are easy to miss, the bites are painless, and they climb up clothing and biting in hard-to-see places."

Mather said the following activities have a higher risk of tick exposure: hiking, golfing, dog walking, camping, gardening, mountain biking, playing outdoors near wooded areas, and nature walks.       

Mather recommends wearing shoes and clothes pre-treated with insect repellent to reduce tick exposure.