Metropolitan Mosquito Control District unveils its forecast for the coming season

An early mosquito season

An early mosquito season

Like many parts of Minnesota, spring-like weather has come early to Lake Baldwin in Lino Lakes.

Along with something else, according to Suzette Dillon, who spotted a mosquito flying around her front porch Tuesday afternoon.  

“Yes, we did, saw one about 15 minutes ago,” she says. “I love the spring and the summer and the hot weather. But the mosquitoes are irritating.”  

For Dillon, that first mosquito sighting is a sign of what’s to come- and a reminder of last year’s lake flooding that approached her back yard.

And of course, those pesky skeeters.   

“You couldn’t really stay out after the sun went down, because they started coming out,” Dillon says. “If it’s going to rain, and there’s going to be standing water, we don’t go outside. You do stuff indoors and other activities.”

Also, on Tuesday, the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District unveiled their first forecast for the coming season.

The MMCD predicts mosquito season will begin earlier, especially if the weather stays warm, but the numbers of the pests out there will likely be lower.

District researchers say several species hibernate as adults during the winter and emerge on warm spring days.

“Right now, people are actually seeing some of these over-wintering mosquitoes coming out, looking for blood,” explains Diann Crane, an MMCD Entomologist. “It just seems like we’re not going to have a very large hatch of mosquitoes, but we never know- because it’s the weather, right?”

Crane’s job is to examine the little critters up close.

At the MMCD lab in St. Paul, she explained there are several groups of mosquitoes that hatch after the annual snowmelt, and then later, if there are heavy rains or there’s a lot of standing water in late spring and into the summer.

“They hatch right after the snowmelt, but we don’t have any snow right now, so it doesn’t look promising for that group of mosquitoes,” she notes. “Then there’s a whole other group of mosquitoes that develop as a result of big rain events. The wetlands hold the water for seven to ten days, allowing those eggs to hatch.”  

The lab uses interactive maps to track known mosquito breeding hotspots, including Lake Baldwin.

“It’s more kind of remote,” says Alex Carlson, an MMCD spokesperson. “You know, swamps, shallow marshes, pond that are pretty shallow. That’s where you find the most mosquito larvae.”

The mapping program marks the highest infestations in red, and medium-level numbers in yellow.

“All around (Lake Baldwin) it looks like, they have what we consider our red sites, which means they’re a highly productive mosquito habitat,” Carlson says.

MMCD says there are 80,000 wetland habitats where mosquitoes can breed.

Researchers say there are 52 species mosquitoes in the state, with total numbers in the trillions.

“It’s so warm, so early, we’re monitoring the wetlands now,” Crane says. “We have people out looking for larvae. We’re trying to gauge if we have to staff up earlier or if we have to calibrate our helicopters for treatments earlier. We’re just kind of looking at it from day to day.”

In April, the lab will start using a trio of drones- one more than last year- as well as helicopters, to drop pellets to kill mosquito larvae.

“The drones are perfect for these medium-sized wetlands that are very hard to get to on the ground,” Carlson says. “We can set up the drone, program it for exactly the outline of the wetland, and it puts out a perfectly distributed amount of control materials.”

The pellets use a process that interferes with a larva’s digestive system but doesn’t harm other insects.

“It has a bacteria on it that occurs with the soil,” Carlson says. “When mosquito larvae feed on it, it crystalizes their digestive system, and they’re no longer able to feed on anything else. They die in the larval stage.”

Crane says much of what will happen in the coming weeks will depend on the weather.

“Smaller populations for the early spring, typically we see that big snowmelt group of mosquitoes emerging in mid-May,” she notes. “If we have some big rain events, and those wetlands hold water, we’ll get the summer types of mosquitoes and so that population could be big.”

Dillon says she’s keeping her fingers crossed.

“We’re Minnesota people, we love the weather and the season,” she exclaims. “But you’ve got to take it with a grain of salt- the good and the bad with the mosquitoes.”