Mosquito Madness

Woods, Waters and Wildlife

Posted

Newcomers to Texas might think mosquitoes are our official state bird. Especially if they are from a typically dry western state that doesn’t have as much standing water and consequently fewer of the pesky little blood-sucking pests. Even surpassing white-tailed deer and feral hogs in numbers, Texas has gazillion mosquitoes.

They’ve been with us forever. Some years they are worse; some years we are in a drought and don’t have as many. This year, there’s water everywhere. We’ve had an extremely wet year. One of the best barometers of how much rainfall we have is Lake Travis, in Central Texas. During drought years, it falls 40 feet – most of that decline happening during the summer. This year, it’s seesawed from just over 681-feet above mean sea level to less than a foot below. Travis is at full pool at 681. I can’t remember it being at full pool for as long as it has been this summer – almost two months! And that’s with half of the summer already over.

So, that has made 2019 a bumper year for ‘skeeters. Fortunately, there’s no bag or possession limit on them, nor any restriction on means and methods of taking. Hunt ‘em day or night, with or without a hunting license, by pickup truck, powerboat or even a helicopter. And you don’t even need a landowner’s permission – although state trespass laws still mean you have to have a landowner’s permission to be on his land. Heck, P.E.T.A. hasn’t even demonstrated about anyone killing mosquitoes. Yesterday morning in my backyard, I would have been over limit for doves or quail, but I was perfectly legal swatting the four and twenty I bagged.

Although they’re not edible – even though some are almost large enough – avoid or dispose of everyone you see. We’ll let you know just before you eliminate enough to put them on the endangered species list.

Why? Well, because they make being outside in this wonderful Texas countryside miserable for most folks, and because they carry diseases. Deadly diseases. Oh, not every bite is fatal, or I would have succumbed years ago, having grown up at the edge of the Big Thicket with standing water in the woods behind our house most of the year.

Last year, the Texas Dept. of Health reported 135 cases of West Nile virus resulting in six deaths. The Zika virus is known for causing birth defects and flu-like symptoms. Who wants that just as you start a two-day dove hunt? Dengue fever caused one death in Texas in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control. If that isn’t enough to be concerned about, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service reported a case of chikungunya fever in May 2016. All these diseases are blamed on mosquito bites.

The best approach is avoidance. Long sleeve shirts, long pants and constant and heavy application of mosquito repellant are recommended. I spray my pants legs with permethrin which also discourages ticks and chiggars.

Swat ‘em if you’ve got ‘em!

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