A hot summer with scattered thunderstorms increased humidity, which created the perfect environment for mosquitoes to reproduce, said Karl Joplin, a biology professor at East Tennessee State University.
“Right now, it’s been very humid with a lot of rainfall,” Joplin said. “That opens up a lot of places for mosquitoes to be reared in.”
Joplin said that what most people use to battle mosquitoes could actually worsen mosquito activity.
“A lot of people use citronella candles,” he said. “But they’re really not an effective deterrent. Nor are the UV lights. Mosquitoes aren’t attracted to them, and these lights end up zapping mosquitoes’ predators. There are traps that work for mosquitoes, but they’re expensive.
“It uses propane to generate a CO2 (carbon dioxide) stream, and when mosquitoes get close, they get sucked into a vacuum.”
Although a swarm of mosquitoes doesn’t sound too pleasant, mosquitoes in East Tennessee are more annoying than dangerous.
Phillip Scheuerman, a professor of environmental health at ETSU, said ticks are the bigger concern due to lyme disease.
“Now, if you’re in an at-risk group, the West Nile Virus could be a risk if we’re seeing more virus reports,” Scheuerman said. “But we’re not. It only really causes cold-like symptoms. It’s not pleasant, but deaths are very rare.
“If you’re going to worry about insect-borne diseases, it’s the ticks. They carry multiple diseases — lyme, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, yellow fever.”
Scheuerman suggested that those overwhelmed by the abundance of mosquitoes this season should check their surroundings to decrease breeding spots.
“Breeding sources can be an issue here,” he said. “If we have areas with lots of standing water — even thimble-sized — it can have mosquitoes breeding in it. People should surveil their yards for standing water.”
Another option to fight the mosquito bites are services offered by the city of Johnson City’s street division by request.
“We larvacide in places that could create mosquito issues,” Dean Minier, general supervisor of the street division, said. “We’ve had about 40 places this year so far. What larvacide does is prevent the mosquitoes from becoming adults.”
“We also offer adulticide services. Basically, when we come through the city, we use a machine that fogs mist into the air that kills the adult mosquitoes within that area. Say someone calls requesting that service in the Tree Streets. I look at the address and figure out a squared area to cover the proximity of their home.”