They're easy to see, but smaller species carry more disease.
FORT MYERS, Fla. — Newspaper and magazine headlines from across the country read like posters from a 1950s big-bug sci-fi flick:
"'Giant' Mosquitoes Set to Invade Florida This Summer"
"Monster Mosquitoes Poised to Strike Florida"
"Attack of the giant mosquitoes!"
It's all very scary and the result of a news release from the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences stating that the "giant" psorophora ciliata mosquito might be abundant throughout the state this summer.
Yes, ciliata is a big mosquito, one of the largest in the U.S. — its wingspan can be 6.7 millimeters or 0.26 inches — and its bite can be painful. But mosquito experts here aren't worried.
"I hate to say this, but, basically, there's not much of a story here," said Frank Van Essen, director of the Collier County Mosquito Control District. "Psorophora ciliata is pretty impressive when it lands on you, and they're fairly aggressive biters.
"But they occur naturally here. It's not like they're invading from the North," he said. "We have them every year. Some years we have just a few, and some years we have a lot of them."
This area has about four dozen mosquito species that fall into two categories:
• New-water mosquitoes lay eggs on damp, flood prone ground, and the eggs hatch when they're covered by rain or high tides.
• Old-water mosquitoes lay eggs on standing water.
Ciliata is a new-water mosquito that lays its eggs on damp soil with grassy overgrowth; the species is particularly fond of improved pasture lands.
"We're not expecting an attack of the monster mosquitoes," said Shelly Redovan, spokeswoman for the Lee County Mosquito Control District. "We actually have fewer psorophora mosquitoes than we used to." In part, because pastureland has given way to development.
Several of the mosquito species in this area carry diseases such as yellow fever, dengue fever, West Nile virus and St. Louis encephalitis, but ciliata is not a known disease carrier.
Southwest Florida's most common mosquito, and the area's baddest biter, is the tiny aedes taeniorynchus, a new-water mosquito that lays its eggs in salt marshes and is a carrier of dog heartworm and Venezuelan equine encephalitis.
Whether this summer will produce a lot of mosquitoes of any species remains to be seen.
"It all depends what the weather brings, rainfall patterns, tides, winds that push the tides," Redovan said. "We won't know until the weather comes."
• Common name: Sometimes called shaggy-legged gallinipper
• Eggs: Deposited in low-lying areas with grassy cover and hatch when covered by rain
• Adult habitat: fields and yards
• Biting activity: Any time of the day
• Flight range: 1 to 2 miles.
• Vector of: No known diseases
• Common: Sometimes called black salt marsh mosquito
• Eggs: Deposited in low-lying, flood-prone, coastal areas; hatch when covered with high tides
• Adult habitat: Found in salt marshes, yards, and wooded areas
• Biting activity: Usually during the early morning and late afternoon but will actively bite during the day if disturbed
• Flight range: More than 20 miles
• Vector of: Dog heartworm