With Hurricane Florence having brought flooding and damage to various Southern states earlier this month, swarms of giant-sized mosquitos known as “gallinippers” have been spotted in parts of North Carolina. These mosquitos, according to reports, can be up to three times larger than average, making them easy to mistake for wasps.
According to North Carolina State University entomology professor Michael Reiskind, who spoke to the Fayetteville Observer earlier this week, there are 61 different species of mosquitos found in North Carolina. These include Psorophora ciliata, a species also known as the “gallinipper” or “shaggy-legged gallinipper” because of the insects’ aggressive tendencies, and commonly associated with other floodwater species. Their eggs only hatch after heavy rains or flooding, and with Florence having just struck North Carolina, and resulted in widespread floods and the “rapid” population growth of these large mosquitos, gallinipper swarms have become a regular occurrence in the state.
“It was like a flurry — like it was snowing mosquitos,” resident Cassie Vadovsky told NBC affiliate WITN, as quoted by Newsweek.
“I think my car agitated them. I waited for them to calm down before I grabbed the kids and the ran into the house.”
Newsweek also cited Reiskind, who warned that wearing up to two layers of cotton clothing might not be enough to shield residents from gallinipper bites. The giant mosquito species’ larvae feed on marine animals around the size of tadpoles, while adult females feed on larger mammals, including humans.
"It was like a flurry — like it was snowing mosquitos." https://t.co/2jAQICNTQr— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) September 29, 2018
Explaining why the post-Hurricane Florence mosquito swarms in North Carolina are especially large, Reiskind told the Fayetteville Observer that gallinipper eggs typically die before they can hatch during most hurricane-free years. However, the flooding caused by Florence has given these eggs a chance to hatch and, as he also warned, live for up to a year in some cases.
“The female has a strategy of laying lots and lots of eggs,” Reiskind continued.
“The eggs are good at surviving, kind of riding it out and waiting for a big flood. When the flood comes, we get many many billions of them. The good news is that a lot of mosquitoes we are seeing in high numbers after an event like Florence are not transmitting a lot of diseases.”
Although Reiskind stressed that the giant mosquitos swarming across North Carolina might not be that harmful despite their large numbers, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced on Wednesday that he is ordering $4 million in funds for a mosquito control initiative. According to Newsweek, the control program, which started in select counties on Thursday, covers the 27 hardest-hit counties in the state, with spraying techniques varying depending on the location.