As if North Carolina residents haven’t had enough to deal with recently, Hurricane Florence’s floodwaters have brought a storm of monster mosquitoes to the Tar Heel State—the biggest many have ever seen.
“A bad science fiction movie,” Eastover’s Robert Phillips told The Fayetteville Observer. “They were inundating me, and one landed on me. It was like a small blackbird.”
And Phillips isn’t alone. Aggressive, super-sized mosquitoes, some as big as half an inch long, have been reported throughout areas impacted by Florence’s historic flooding.
Mosquito experts explained to the Observer that floodwater has created the perfect environment for the eggs of opportunist mosquito species like the large Psorophora ciliata to hatch. The Psorophora ciliata, which is two to three times larger than a regular mosquito, is often referred to as the “gallinipper” or “shaggy-legged gallinipper” due to its aggressive behavior. Gallnipper eggs lie dormant in dry weather and then hatch in extremely large numbers following heavy rains or flooding.
“There are 61 species in North Carolina that are boom or bust,” Michael Reiskind, an entomology professor at North Carolina State University, told the Observer. Species like the gallinipper look for these type of storm events to hatch.
“In a normal year, in the absence of a hurricane or significant rainfall, most of those eggs would probably die before ever getting a chance to hatch,” Reiskind said. “But with all the water that has come up, they have gotten a chance to hatch. In some cases, the eggs may live one year.”
He added that the mosquitoes that are being hatched in floodwaters aren’t new species, they’re just less noticeable during dry weather because there are fewer around.
“They are a lot bigger than the normal mosquito. Their larvae is a lot bigger. They are like bullies in water and feed on other mosquitoes,” Shirley Chao, a professor of biology at Fayetteville State University, told the Observer. “I think some people thought they’d be beneficial because they eat other mosquito larvae that cause diseases. But they will fly around and bite you and suck your blood, so they’re just as much of a pest as another mosquito. But the bite is a lot more painful.”
Last week, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper ordered $4 million in funding for mosquito control efforts in 27 counties that are under a major disaster declaration from the recent hurricane.
Luckily, the infestation should subside when the weather becomes cool and dry.
In the meantime, experts advise wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants while outdoors, and using mosquito repellent that contains DEET or an equivalent when outside. For more information, visit NCDHHS.gov.