The heavy May and June rains coupled with heat helped hatch a huge crop of blood suckers.
As if the heat weren't miserable enough, the metro area also has twice as many mosquitoes this summer.
A bumper crop of blood suckers has grown up from all the rain that poured into their wetland breeding grounds in May and June -- the second-wettest June on record. Now the insects are drilling into arms, necks and foreheads across the metro area.
"The more rain we get, the more mosquitoes we have to control," said Jim Stark, head of the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District. "We are seeing elevated levels of mosquitoes in certain areas of the metro."
How bad is it? A sampling of the Mosquito Control District's 134 traps on the evening of July 2 found an average of 1,425 adult mosquitoes per trap. The nine-year average for the same evening is 643 mosquitoes per trap.
The fringes of the metro area have been the hardest hit by the pests because control measures start in the seven-county area's population center and work out as time and money permits.
At Fish Lake Acres Campground in Prior Lake, manager Tim Orf feels a difference in the mosquito population this year, and so do campers, he said. "In a word, they're horrendous," he said.
The hour on either side of sunset is the worst, but "lately even in the shade during the day they are out," Orf said.
"People bring their foggers. They bring their bug spray. I just tell them, 'Hey, mosquitoes are free of charge this year.'"
Abby Ferri, who just moved back to Minnesota from San Diego, has encountered an onslaught of mosquitoes at the house she is renting in Andover this summer.
"Mosquitoes are aplenty out here and I actually am reacting to the bites. ... Big red irritations where bites would usually heal. This doesn't help my husband, from Long Island, N.Y., adjust to Minnesota," she said.
Control efforts can only do so much.
"We have had way more mosquitoes this year than years past," said Angela Sjosten of Savage. "There is a marshy area behind our house. We've called mosquito control but they said this isn't our year for spraying. ... If the heat wasn't bad enough, the abundance of mosquitoes makes it impossible to be outdoors."
The good news is that the summer heat stresses out mosquitoes and they don't live the usual four to five weeks, Stark said. The bad news is that "every time we get a new significant rainfall, then a new family of mosquitoes starts all over again."
The district's goal is not to eradicate mosquitoes, but to reduce their numbers enough to allow people to come home and grill a hamburger or do some gardening before dusk, Stark said. Around dusk it might be necessary to go inside or put on repellent, but, "in the early-evening hours it's our hope that people can get out and enjoy the summer months.
"We understand that even that is a challenge now in some areas of the metro, and those are the areas we are trying to respond to."
The district -- which is one of the largest mosquito-abatement districts in the world -- has a $17 million budget and permission from its governing board to dip into emergency reserves if necessary this year, Stark said.
In normal years, the agency treats between 175,000 and 225,000 acres of wetlands with a granular material that kills mosquito larvae that eat it. Already, the district has treated 200,000 acres this year, Stark said.
Phone complaints from residents of hard-hit southern Scott and Dakota counties are from areas where the mosquitoes hatched before the district could treat them, Stark said. In the spring, it takes four to five weeks for mosquitoes to hatch, giving the district more time to get around the metro area.
But hatching time speeds up in the summer, with some developing from eggs in as little as five to seven days. That leaves areas on the fringe of the metro area in need of adult mosquito control with a fog or a vegetation spray, Stark said.
The district does a more limited amount of that kind of treatment, but it is stepping up adult control in response to complaints and the numbers of mosquitoes in its traps.
"If someone calls us and complains about adult mosquitoes, first we tell them we don't do individual spraying," Stark said. "We don't have the resources to spray everybody's back yard."
Complaints are put into the agency's database to point to areas in most need of adult mosquito control, Stark said.
"We also tell people if they are having a graduation or family reunion or wedding and they want treatment for a specific date or function, there are commercial people that do mosquito control," Stark said.
Laurie Blake • 952-746-3287
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