PJ Liesch, UW-Extension entomologist
Department of Entomology
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Science
Total Time – 3:00
0:13 – What’s the season looking like
0:30 – Mosquito borne diseases
0:55 – How many mosquito species
1:12 – What attracts mosquitoes to humans
1:39 – How to avoid mosquitoes
2:17 – When are mosquitoes more active
2:35 – Concerns about mosquito bites on household pets
2:50 – Lead out
Lorre Kolb: Mosquito season. We’re visiting today with PJ Liesch, Extension entomologist, Insect Diagnostic Lab, University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Lorre Kolb. PJ, what is the mosquito season shaping up to be?
PJ LIesch: We do seem to be having a pretty darn good mosquito year. Lots of reports of high mosquito activity. And it makes sense when you look at the weather we’ve had this year. In general when you have rainy years that often means more mosquitoes for us.
Lorre Kolb: And are there any specific concerns about mosquito borne illnesses?
PJ LIesch: So there are a number of mosquito borne diseases out there. Probably the one we hear about the most in Wisconsin would be West Nile Virus and we do have some concerns with that. Last year we had close to 50 cases reported in the state, so it is a concern that’s out there. There’s some other diseases we hear about in the news, things like Zika virus and yellow fever and those aren’t really a concern for us this far north.
Lorre Kolb: And how many different varieties of mosquitoes are there?
PJ LIesch: So worldwide, there’s about three thousand or more species, but in Wisconsin alone we have roughly 60 or so species of mosquitoes. Some of those will of course bite humans, some of them prefer other hosts for blood meals, birds or reptiles, things along those lines.
Lorre Kolb: What attracts the mosquitoes to humans?
PJ LIesch: A couple things can attract them to their hosts that they’re feeding on – body heat is one thing, carbon dioxide that we exhale is something that can attract them, they can actually follow that from some distance to f find their host and then each person has their own unique scent. We have these organic molecules we produce on our skin through sweat, those get modified by microorganisms on our skin, and mosquitoes can smell out certain compounds in that.
Lorre Kolb: And what can people do to avoid mosquitoes?
PJ LIesch: A couple of really easy things. First off, if it’s a bad mosquito year, which we do seem to be having, and you know that the mosquitoes are really active in your backyard, one of the best things to do is just stay inside until maybe mosquito season quiets down for a bit. If you are going outdoors picnicking or barbecue, things like that, if it’s not too hot and you can wear long sleeve clothing, that’s a physical barrier so they’re going to have a harder time to get to your skin to bite you. Otherwise there’s a number of EPA-approved repellants – DEET, Picardian, oil of lemon eucalyptus and a few other ones that if applied properly those can help keep mosquitoes at bay too.
Lorre Kolb: Is there a certain time of day that mosquitoes are more active?
PJ LIesch: It depends a little bit on the mosquito species. Many of our mosquitoes are crepuscular creatures; meaning they are active in the early hours before dawn and primarily we encounter them at sunset.
Lorre Kolb: Should people be worried about mosquito bites on their cats and dogs?
PJ LIesch: There can be some concerns there. The reason for that is certain mosquito species can carry diseases like heartworm in dogs, and so you should chat with your veterinarian and make sure that they’re getting appropriate heartworm treatments.
Lorre Kolb: We’ve been visiting today with PJ Liesch, Extension entomologist, Insect Diagnostic Lab, University of Wisconsin-Madison/Extension in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and I’m Lorre Kolb.