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mosquitoes

New fronts in the war on mosquitoes

Science marches on.

In the center of Anita Schiller’s dragonfly-ring-clad hand, a dragonfly nymph is scooting around.

The dedicated naturalist and entomologist is explaining how the insect (which is a water-dwelling dragonfly with gills before it grows wings) expels water from its posterior in a squirting fashion. She laughed and called it “fart propulsion.”

Schiller is leading a team of four from the Harris County Precinct 4’s Biological Control Initiative through a man-made flood control site at the corner of Spring Cypress Road and Telge Road. They are releasing dragonfly and damselfly nymphs into the water, along with carnivorous plants, to help reduce the infectious mosquito population.

“What we’re bringing in will help stack the deck against mosquitoes,” Schiller, director of the initiative, says. “Mosquito suppression is built into the design of the project.”

The Biological Control Initiative started in 2012 with a mission to “find native agents to benefit from the locally adapted phenotype” to counter the mosquito population.

So, what exactly does that mean?

The agency rears human-friendly biological agents, such as dragonflies, damselflies and carnivorous plants, in a lab to be released into the wild to control the blood-sucking and potentially diseased mosquitoes that afflict Southeast Texas year round.

Dragonflies are robust, while damselflies are more dainty-looking. But both are ferocious eaters as adults and gleaning eaters as nymphs.

Introducing native and naturally flood-resistant plants into wetlands and areas of unavoidable standing water gives a larger return-on-investment than just a pesticide approach, Schiller says. The plants also don’t require regular maintenance.

The initiative has also garnered attention for its introduction of “mosquito assassins” in the Houston area. These mosquitoes, which are typically larger than other native species, do not feed off humans and instead work to eliminate the dangerous mosquitoes, such as Asian tiger (Aedes albopictus), southern house (Culex quinquefasciatus) and yellow fever (Aedes aegypti) mosquito larvae.

As the story notes, Harris County is also using mosquito traps and mutant mosquitoes to control our skeeter population. It’s a big deal, because mosquitoes mean Zika, and standing water means mosquitoes. Do your part to combat the buzzing menace by emptying out whatever pots or containers you have in your yard that fill up with rainwater after a storm. The BCI will take it from there.

The mosquitopocalypse is coming

It just keeps getting better and better.

Harvey’s rain may have left Houston behind, but there’s another storm headed our way. It’s a cloud of mosquitoes, which breed in standing water and soon will be hatching by the millions.

“It’s going to be horrible in two or three weeks,” said Cory Barcomb, operations manager for Mosquito Squad, a Houston mosquito control service. He’s bracing for the onslaught, bringing in heavy-duty insecticide sprayers from Austin that can cover a whole neighborhood in a couple of hours.

You know all that standing water we have right now? Mosquitoes are laying eggs in it right now – as many as 500 eggs at a time. In a week or two, all those eggs will start to hatch. And before long, we’ll see a mosquito boom that will have us swatting and scratching for weeks.

“There’s no way around them,” said Dr. Mustapha Debboun, director of Harris County Public Health’s mosquito and vector control division. “Once they find water, they’re going to lay eggs.”

[…]

Our local mosquitoes could be carrying five different viruses, according to Debboun: West Nile, St. Louis encephalitis, dengue, chikungunya and Zika.

That’s why Harris County Public Health will be studying the mosquito population to figure out where they’re the most concentrated, then strategically spraying insecticide to get rid of them.

Mosquito Control staffers will head out across Harris County soon after this new round of mosquitoes has hatched, Debboun said. They’ll do what’s called a “landing count,” which involves a brave Mosquito Control technician standing still for one minute and counting the number of mosquitoes that land on him. If it’s five to 10, there’s not a problem. If it’s 100 or more, Debboun said, “that’s a situation.”

Oh my God, there is no amount of money you could pay me to do that job. Those people are damn heroes. There will be insecticide sprayed from trucks and possibly planes to combat the buzzing menace, and we didn’t all scratch ourselves to death following other large flood events, so maybe we’ll survive this time, too. Cover yourself in DEET and empty any standing water you have on your property in the meantime. God help us all.

Let’s use mutant mosquitoes to fight Zika

What could possibly go wrong?

The Bayou City’s teeming mosquito population spawns in dark, wet nooks and carries a slew of deadly tropical diseases that could ravage the region.

So Houston is pondering a sneak attack, something akin to a Trojan Horse. Harris County officials are negotiating with a British biotech company, Oxitec, to create and release mutant mosquitoes genetically engineered so that after they’re set loose in the wild, offspring die, and the mosquito population dwindles.

Deric Nimmo, principal scientist at Oxitec, said it is a paradigm shift – “the release of mosquitoes to control mosquitoes.”

If an agreement is finalized, Harris County could become one of the first locations in the United States to use the mosquitoes, going far beyond the chemicals and public-awareness campaigns the county has long relied upon.

[…]

Oxitec spun off from Oxford University 15 years ago to commercialize proprietary strains of insects, namely mosquitoes. The hope is that they can help reduce populations of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which carry the Zika virus, dengue fever and chikungunya, among other deadly illnesses. The mosquitoes are common in the Houston region.

Oxitec inserts a “self-limiting gene” into a male mosquito and releases several into the environment. Those mosquitoes then mate with females – Oxitec claims their special males out-compete normal males – and the resulting offspring die before they become adults. Over time, the overall population of the Aedes mosquito declines.

Male mosquitoes do not bite and can’t spread disease.

The company has conducted field trials in Brazil, Panama and the Cayman Islands and says it has reduced the Aedes mosquito populations by up to 90 percent in each location.

“It looks like we’re going to do or plan to do some sort of trial initially to test out the system,” Nimmo said.

Oxitec has yet to try out its technology in the U.S.

[…]

According to the FDA, if Oxitec wanted to conduct a field trial in Harris County, the company would have to submit an environmental assessment to the agency.

Another complication: Regulatory authority over Oxitec’s mosquitoes would then likely shift to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Mustapha Debboun, director of the Harris County Mosquito Control Division, said working with Oxitec could provide another tool in the fight against Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses.

“We’re not abandoning the tried-and-true” approaches, said Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle, who has been leading the efforts. “We’re willing to see – What can we add to the tried-and-true that can make this better, especially considering that the tried-and-true has some flaws?”

Unseasonably warm weather has prompted the division to boost staff during winter months. It has seven investigators now, compared to four, and two additional public education staffers, Debboun said.

In August, officials nearly doubled the number of Aedes mosquito traps across the county to 134. Harris County also continues to partner with Microsoft to develop high-tech traps that will sense and nab only certain species of mosquitoes, like those that carry Zika or dengue, and eventually hopes to utilize drones to find and target hot spots.

After receiving a federal grant, the county hopes by May to start research on whether mosquitoes in the region that could carry Zika are developing resistance to certain pesticides. The county also will use that money to test more mosquitoes for Zika, Debboun said.

“The crucial part of all this is to find out if the mosquito has the virus in it,” he said.

Yes, remember the Microsoft Mosquito Drone story? Nice to hear about it again, even if there isn’t much to report yet. As far as Oxitec goes, their approach is one I’ve heard about as a possible way to limit the growth of the A. aegypti population and the many diseases it helps propagate. Maybe it will work without serious unanticipated side effects, but we would be the US pioneers for such a test. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but as the consequences of doing too little are West Nile and Zika, I’m not sure how wishy washy one can be about this. What do you think?

Still asking for Zika help

From the inbox:

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Following reports of the first local mosquito-borne Zika infections in the U.S., Mayor Sylvester Turner is once again calling on the state of Texas and federal government to provide financial assistance to help fight it.

“There are already 14 confirmed cases of Zika virus being transmitted locally in Florida,” said Mayor Turner. “I believe it is just a matter of time before Texas is in a similar situation. Cities are the front line of defense in this battle, and we could use some financial assistance from the state and federal governments. It makes no sense to wait until there is an outbreak here.”

Since February, the City of Houston Solid Waste Department has been conducting weekend sweeps of illegal dump sites that can serve as mosquito breeding grounds. To date, 3,433 tons of debris and 29,130 tires have been hauled away at an annual cost of $3.6 million. With some additional state or federal funding, the City could purchase new equipment to increase collection frequency beyond the weekends, develop and distribute educational materials informing residents of proper and free disposal options and establish three additional heavy trash drop-off locations.

Last week, the Houston Health Department was awarded $1.5 million by the Centers for Disease Control to use for surveillance, testing and prevention. The City is already in discussion with Harris County on the best way to maximize the use of these dollars.

Houston has documented 12 travel-associated cases of Zika virus infection since the start of the outbreak in Latin America earlier this year. Harris County has confirmed another 12 cases – 11 are travel related and one is an infant with microcephaly born to a mother who contracted the virus while traveling outside the United State. There are a total of 80 confirmed Zika cases in Texas. At this time, there is no evidence the virus has infected mosquito populations in the state.

In addition to the neighborhood trash sweeps, the City has public service announcements at the airports, on public transit, in city water bills and on local TV. The health department is going door-to-door to distribute insect repellent in underserved neighborhoods, and the City’s regional public health laboratory is supporting local hospitals and clinics with Zika infection testing.

Residents are encouraged to follow the three Ds of mosquito defense: drain, dress, DEET! Drain standing water on your property and keep hedges trimmed. Wear long pants and long sleeves, keep windows and screens repaired and use air conditioning. When outside, spray exposed skin with mosquito repellant containing DEET, reapply as necessary and use netting to protect babies in strollers or car seats.

This is not the first time Mayor Turner has asked for this help. I doubt the Republican-controlled Congress is any more interested in taking action now than it was then, but it can’t hurt to ask. Better to keep expectations low, though.

First baby affected by Zika born in Texas

Won’t be the last, unfortunately.

A baby boy born with microcephaly in Harris County is the first Zika-affected infant in Texas, the Texas Department of State Health Services announced Wednesday.

The baby’s mother contracted Zika in Colombia, and the baby was infected in the womb, according Umair Shah, executive director of Harris County Public Health. The baby was born a few weeks ago in Harris County outside of Houston, and tests confirmed that he had Zika on Monday, Shah said.

In the state health department news release, State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt called the news “heartbreaking.”

“This underscores the damage Zika can have on unborn babies,” Hellerstedt said. “Our state’s work against Zika has never been more vital.”

[…]

Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor University, predicted that the baby born with microcephaly in Harris County represents the start of a wave of such births in Texas, as pregnant women who contracted the virus in Latin America deliver children with an elevated risk of birth defects.

If transmission of Zika begins on the Gulf Coast, Hotez said, there could be a second wave of Zika-affected births months from now.

“There’s a good chance that the transmission of Zika has already started in Texas,” Hotez said. “But without federal funds, it’s hard to have the resources to look for it, diagnose it, and do the mosquito control.”

Let’s be clear about why Congress hasn’t acted on Zika funding. A functional Congress would simply appropriate some money for the problem and be done with it. Our Republican-led Congress sees an opportunity to attack Planned Parenthood and promote the Confederate flag. And so here we are. Let’s hope that count of Zika-infected babies doesn’t go up too much while they’re on vacation.

Building a better mosquito trap

I love this story.

Microsoft Mosquito Drone

Harris County officials are teaming up with tech-giant Microsoft to find and research mosquitoes that could carry the Zika virus or other mosquito-borne diseases, the county public health department said Tuesday.

As part of “Project Premonition,” 10 traps will be placed across Harris County. Each trap can transmit data on when the mosquito was trapped, the temperature, barometric pressure and humidity during capture, according to a statement from the public health department.

Drones could then be used to help detect mosquito hot spots and to set and collect traps, according to the news release. The data collected could be used to predict when and where certain mosquito-borne diseases occur, ideally before they occur.

“We believe autonomous systems and cloud computing have enormous potential to improve monitoring and prediction,” said Microsoft lead researcher and project lead Ethan Jackson in the statement. “This partnership with Harris County’s state-of-the-art mosquito control program creates a unique opportunity to apply and shape next-generation technologies together with public health leaders.”

The computerized traps can filter out other flies and insects that aren’t being targeted. County officials emphasized that mosquitoes carrying Zika had not yet been detected in Harris County.

Follow that link in the story for the techie details behind this. Why not study mosquitoes to see where they are most prevalent, and base your response on that rather than spraying indiscriminately? Makes sense to me. Just please don’t anyone take a potshot at one of the drones if you see one in your neighborhood. It’s a bad idea on many levels.

Mayor Turner asks for Zika help

From the inbox.

Mayor Sylvester Turner

Mayor Sylvester Turner

With members of the local legislative delegation at his side and an illegal tire dump as the backdrop, Mayor Sylvester Turner called on the state of Texas to declare the Zika virus a public health emergency and dedicate funds toward local efforts to fight it.

“Local governments are in a position to do the door-to-door, neighborhood-by-neighborhood hard work necessary to mitigate Zika,” said Mayor Turner. “There is a critical need for help in paying for this massive effort. We have programs already underway and would welcome state help in funding them. Let’s work together to eradicate this threat.”

Mayor Turner is requesting assistance from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s Solid Waste Disposal Fees Account, which currently has a balance of $130 million. Under changes made by the legislature in 2007, the fund may be used for an immediate response to or remediation of an emergency that involves solid waste.

Since February, the City of Houston Solid Waste Department has been cleaning up illegal dump sites to help reduce mosquito breeding sites and combat the spread of Zika. They have already hauled 3,000 tons of debris and 19,000 tires away. The effort is expected to cost $3.6 million this year. With additional funding, the City of Houston could purchase new equipment to increase collection frequency beyond the weekends, develop and distribute educational materials informing residents of proper and free disposal options and establish three additional heavy trash drop-off locations.

Zika is spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is found in Houston and southeast Texas. Infection during pregnancy causes microcephaly and other brain malformations in some babies. Infections in adults have been linked to Guillain–Barré syndrome.

The city has launched a multi-pronged approach to fighting the Zika virus. In addition to the neighborhood trash sweeps, there are also educational announcements at the airports, on public transit, in city water bills and on local TV. The health department is going door-to-door to distribute insect repellent in underserved neighborhoods, and the City’s regional public health laboratory is supporting local hospitals and clinics with Zika infection testing.

Now that mosquito season is here, residents need to be vigilant about protecting themselves from being bitten. Follow the three Ds of mosquito defense: drain, dress, DEET! Drain standing water on your property and keep hedges trimmed. Dress in long pants and long sleeves, keep windows and screens repaired and use air conditioning. When outside, spray exposed skin with mosquito repellent containing DEET, reapply as necessary and use netting to protect babies in strollers or car seats.

Seems like a reasonable request to me. The state made its own request for assistance to the feds, so fair’s fair. We’ll see how they respond. The Chron and the Press have more.

Don’t let the mosquitoes bite

That’s going to be a challenge.

Mosquitoes don’t breed in flood waters. They drown in them, said Dr. Mustapha Debboun, director of the Mosquito Control Division at Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services.

But it’s after the flood waters subside that mosquito breeding becomes an issue, he said. And with the Zika virus on everyone’s radar over the past few months, Debboun said they’ll be heading into neighborhoods to mount an education campaign once the high waters recede in order to keep the spread of the virus under wraps as much as possible.

[…]

Debboun said that, even after the floods, there is no need to panic. There are several things that people can do to keep potential Zika-carrying mosquitoes away. For one — and this one’s a bit of a no-brainer — people should wear insect repellent, especially as the temperatures begin to rise in May, Debboun said, if they don’t want to get bitten. Most importantly, though, people need to drain any small or large containers that filled with water during the flood, Debboun said. The mosquitoes like to breed in shallow, stagnant water, whether in big buckets or flower pots or even a water bottle left outside. And mosquitoes that carry Zika are exactly the types of mosquitoes that live in your backyard, who like these environments. “People have to help us in denying mosquitoes the chance to breed in those containers full of water,” Debboun said.

At a meeting in Greenspoint Wednesday night, Mayor Sylvester Turner also urged residents not to leave wet debris and ruined furniture from their homes out on the curb or their front lawns so as to not attract mosquitoes. He said Waste Management has pitched in by providing dozens of large dumpsters in those worst-hit neighborhoods.

As the story notes, Zika is already here. How much of a problem it becomes remains to be seen. I’m sure there will be plenty of spraying and other mitigation done by the city and the county, but do your part, too. Get rid of standing water, and use mosquito repellent. Let’s try to keep the little bastards under control.

Take the mosquito threat seriously

If mosquitoes weren’t one of the Biblical plagues visited on Egypt, they should have been.

You’ve probably heard of the potentially deadly West Nile virus, but this summer, people in the Houston area could begin to be at more risk of contracting two other mosquito-borne viruses.

Chikungunya made headlines last year after Texas’ first cases were reported in the Austin and Houston areas. In both cases, the patients had recently visited the Caribbean, where the virus is more common. The disease causes fevers and severe joint pain. So far, there have been no known transmissions of the virus here, but experts are braced for the possibility this summer. The virus is not usually fatal, but it often causes excruciating joint pain.

Dengue, however, can be deadly, and it is a major cause of illness and death in the tropics and subtropics, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms include severe headache, eye pain, joint pain, muscle or bone pain, rash, mild bleeding (such as from the nose or gums or easy bruising), and low white cell count.

Local transmissions of these two viruses could start in part because Houston is a major air travel hub, said Dr. Scott Weaver, director of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston’s Institute for Human Infections and Immunity. “We have imported cases all the time. We have the right mosquito to initiate the transmission cycle.”

That mosquito is the Aedes aegypti, one of the most common of the dozens of types of mosquitoes in the Houston area.

Chikungunya just arrived in the Americas in the last year and half and has been spreading north through Mexico, where the virus has not been before, Weaver said. So it could cross the border.

[…]

The Aedes aegypti bites in the daytime, while the type the carries West Nile virus, Culex, strikes in the evening. So bug repellent should be worn anytime, not just at dawn and dusk, when the Culex mosquitoes are most active.

Aedes aegypti also tends to enter people’s houses, where public spraying efforts can’t reach them.

“You can’t just stay inside and assume you’ll be protected,” Weaver said.

He advises checking your property every few days to empty or remove debris, flower pots, or anything else that may hold standing water.

Remember, it’s gonna be a bad year for us, skeeter-wise. Take every reasonable step you can to minimize the threat.

Time to stock up on mosquito repellent

I feel itchy already.

It is on, mosquitoes. This sopping spring guarantees Houstonians will have to be more vigilant against the pests than ever.

The mosquito kills about 1 million humans a year, chiefly from malaria, making it by far the deadliest life form on the planet, reports the World Health Organization.

The city has already logged its first case of West Nile virus this year, even though the season usually peaks in August.

Houstonians have a couple of weeks to gear up for the mosquito onslaught, said Joe Conlon, an entomologist and technical adviser with the American Mosquito Control Association.

The floodwaters from the recent heavy rains washed many of the existing larvae away, but the puddles remaining give the next generation of troublemakers a good nursery. “Then the problems will start in spades,” Conlon said.

Dry weather over the past few years has suppressed insect numbers, but that’s all over now, said Sonja Swiger, an entomologist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Stephenville.

“The flood put a twist on things,” she said. “It’s going to be overwhelming in a couple of weeks. Lots of rain activates mosquitoes,” she said.

[…]

Why do some people seem to attract mosquito bites while others don’t?

Genetics, Conlon said. “Some people are not intrinsically attractive and give off odors repellent to mosquitoes,” he said. Others, especially with fairer skin, seem desirable. Nothing you can eat will fend them off, not even garlic.

Gardening with plants such as citronella grass also doesn’t do the trick because the concentration of the oil mosquitoes hate is too weak. Nor is Conlon a fan of all-natural essential oil concoctions, saying they are unproven and risky in light of the dangers from diseases. He recommends an Environmental Protection Agency-registered repellent. “It could be a matter of life and death, literally,” he said.

In any case, Tesh said, we’re not going to win this fight. “It’s not a matter of winning. We’re all just surviving,” he said. “I’m afraid they’re here to stay.”

Cursing mosquitoes is a common action when we have had heavy rain. I personally douse myself in Deet to ward them off, but your mileage may vary. Do what you can to drain any standing water in your immediate area, cover up as needed, and hope for the best. Hair Balls has more.

It’s what comes after the rain that’ll get you

All that rain we got was great and badly needed to finally kill off last year’s drought. But we know what comes next.

Culex skeeter, West Nile carrier

In the last three weeks, Harris County has confirmed three cases of this potentially deadly disease in humans. Meanwhile, officials are finding the virus in more and more birds, and infected mosquitoes are spreading quickly, despite preventive spraying. The number of Harris County ZIP codes where mosquitoes tested positive for West Nile skyrocketed from six in early June to 71 as of Tuesday.

While the number of cases of West Nile in humans is just average so far this year, Harris County’s mosquito control director Dr. Rudy Bueno is concerned by an unusual spike in bird deaths from the same virus. The birds had been strategically placed in storm sewers around the county.

“We’re finding more dead birds, in particular blue jays,” he said. “They’re the sentinels. Once they start to die, it’s a red flag. That means the virus activity is pretty high.”

Bird deaths recently were recorded in six Harris County ZIP codes: 77040, 77055, 77065, 77345, 77449 and 77493.

When this virus, which originated in the West Nile valley of Uganda, was introduced into this area about 10 years ago, it killed many birds that had not yet built up immunities. But since then, Bueno said, bird deaths have been declining.

“Yet this year, the numbers are increasing again,” Bueno said. West Nile initially infects birds, which then are bitten by mosquitoes that in turn infect humans.

You can go to http://hcphes.org/mc to see where mosquitoes with West Nile virus have been found. No matter how much the county sprays, remember that the varmints you see most likely came from your own back yard. Look around for any standing water and take whatever action you can to drain it. Every little bit helps.

There are also bigger concerns.

One resident recently encountered a 5-foot, 6-inch alligator in her garage, across from Woodland Park near White Oak Bayou.

Fred Ruiz, Harris County captain for Texas Parks and Wildlife, said the alligators have been spotted more frequently this year in residential neighborhoods because of the rain.

He said the Seabrook area – where a dog was killed by an alligator estimated at 12 feet in late June – has experienced a lot of gator activity.

“They end up in the craziest places,” Ruiz said.

“Especially when it rains, the bayou becomes like a highway for gators,” he said. “They will wander into garages, anywhere that is cool.”

Game wardens trapped the Heights gator last Wednesday and released it into its natural habitat.

One presumes that was someplace other than the Heights. Keep your eyes open, that’s all I’m saying.

Skeeter season

Not the minor league baseball team, the kind we all hate.

Despite dire predictions of an even worse-than-usual mosquito invasion this spring, the swarm of activity actually thinned out in May, after two out-of-control months buoyed by rain and unseasonably high temperatures.

“There has been a dramatic decline,” said Mike McMahan, who oversees mosquito control in Harris County Precinct 3.

Jim Ryan, mosquito control director in Brazoria County, said the bugs were “almost nonexistent” there last week. And in Fort Bend County, until recent rains brought a resurgence, there were “hardly any,” according to Weldon Sheard, vector control supervisor.

It turns out mosquito prediction is a tenuous sport. Said Jim Dennett, a Harris County mosquito control research manager, “People have spent their entire careers trying to model and predict pest mosquito populations, but they have yet to make me a believer … things can change so quickly.”

As we have learned, cold weather and drought don’t really do much to affect the mosquito menace. We’re pretty much on our own, so assume the worst and stock up on the DEET.

Less drought, more mosquitos

Tough choice, isn’t it? This story is about the prospects in Central Texas for rain and the buzzing vermin we all hate, but it could just as easily be written for Houston or any other part of the state. This bit was something I didn’t know, or at least had never thought about:

Even if we don’t get a deluge in the near future, mosquitoes might be able to work around it. Flooding that creates “ephemeral pools” near rivers, streams or other bodies of water can produce breeding habitat. Three or four days later you’ve got a bumper crop. Somewhat counterintuitively, droughts that lead to stagnant ponds can have the same effect, [Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service urban entomologist Mike] Merchant said.

And, it turns out, the economy can affect mosquito populations. Merchant said foreclosed and abandoned homes with swimming pools have become an issue in the past few years.

But by and large, Merchant said, if a mosquito bites you in your yard, it probably came from your yard.

“By far, most people breed their own mosquitoes,” he said. “These breeding sites are not always obvious. You can have water sitting in a potted plant or a piece of plastic holding water. Mostly we’re at fault ourselves.”

Sheesh. It’s bad enough that I can’t console myself that cold winters will mean fewer skeeters, now I can’t even blame slovenly neighbors for them? Man, life is unfair.

We’ll always have skeeters

Wait, so all this arctic weather doesn’t mean a reduction in the mosquito population? So what’s the point of it, then?

“The freeze is going to kill some of the population, but it’s not going to wipe out everything,” said Wizzie Brown, a specialist with the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.

Some will survive by finding shelter. And there’s the billions of mosquito eggs laid across Harris County, just waiting to hatch during the next hard rain and when temperatures warm a little. The eggs, Brown said, are pretty sturdy and most will probably survive the hard freeze intact.

Other insects will also find ways to survive. Fire ants will dig deeper into the ground to find warmer temperatures. Cockroaches will invade homes or compost piles.

[…]

So yes, the next few days will be virtually mosquito free. But when it warms modestly, and the rains begin to fall, look out.

I note this for two reasons. One, for years now Tiffany has told me that we need a good hard freeze every winter in order to curtail the skeeter population. I’ve heard it so often I’d started to believe it myself. Now that I know it’s not so, I can freely moan about how much I hate cold weather with a clear conscience. And two, because “Wizzie” is easily the best name I’ve heard in months.