A few mosquitoes have already taken flight in the metro area, but don't expect to have to do any serious swatting or slapping quite yet.

The late March snow and coolish April has helped slow down the emergence of this year's brood of insects, giving the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District (MMCD) a chance to get its seasonal employees back on the job and carve out a game plan for keeping the pests at bay when they come out in force in a few weeks.

"We appreciate the cold blast," said MMCD spokesman Alex Carlson.

But the recent rains, not so much. While the precipitation may be a boon for farmers and help lower wildfire risk, it has elevated the chances of having a "normal" mosquito season, Carlson said.

A warm and dry winter had officials originally thinking there might be a lighter crop of the buzzing insects this year, even as the first mosquito larva was collected by field staff on Feb. 26, the earliest the agency had found any in the past five years, the MMCD said.

Now, "we will have a decent amount [of mosquitoes] this year, but less than last spring," Carlson said.

To keep this year's numbers down, about 160 field mosquito technicians clad in "Mosquito Control" shirts this week began wading through marshes and wetlands across the metro area, collecting water samples to be analyzed at the agency's St. Paul lab. That work didn't happen until late April last year due to the late snow melt.

The results will show which bodies of water and areas have the highest concentrations of larvae ready to hatch, and allow the MMCD to prioritize its early treatment efforts there, Carlson said.

Additionally, on Saturday and Sunday if the winds die down, the MMCD will send five to six helicopters airborne over mosquito-producing habitats to drop pellets that kill larvae before they turn into full-fledged flying insects.

"People will hear and see us," Carlson said.

The weather will be the big wild card as to how the remainder of the summer plays out, Carlson said. The long-range forecast calls for normal or below-average precipitation across Minnesota June through August, according to the National Weather Service. Less rain means fewer mosquitoes, but a few heavy rains in midsummer could bring an abundance of the blood-sucking pests.

Larvae will stay in the water longer as cool conditions persist, Carlson said, meaning the first big batch of mosquitoes is not likely until the calendar flips to May.

That makes the coming days and weeks "a perfect time to be outside." Carlson said.