Recent record-setting rainfall has been a boon for California flora, sprouting "super blooms" that have sparked wildflower excursions from Anza Borrego to Orange County. But that rising tide has lifted all lifeforms in the environment, including some not so popular ones: bugs.
Officials are warning that this year might bring a record number of mosquitos and other insects to the region.
“Because we’ve gone so long without rain, the recent storms, coupled with the higher temperatures that followed right after, created the perfect environment for these different insects to emerge,” said Levy Sun, spokesperson for the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District. “Unfortunately, these insects are bugging a lot of people,” he added with a chuckle.
The district has received an uptick in phone calls about bugs recently. It said many people misidentify the insects, and they don’t always know which ones to worry about or ignore.
“The insect of real concern is the one that bites, and that is the mosquito,” said Sun.
More concerning is the fact that mosquitos can transmit diseases with their bites.
There are two varieties of mosquitos found locally. The Culex mosquito is native to California. It’s about half an inch in size and is capable of transmitting West Nile virus. The second is the Aedes mosquito (aegypti and albopictus). They are half as big as the Culex, have black and white stripes and can be quite aggressive. They can transmit yellow fever and Zika.
There have been no known Zika transmissions within Southern California, Sun said. Only Zika cases that were contracted during travel outside the state.
Then there are nuisance bugs like fungus gnats and crane flies, also known as mosquito hawks. Both are harmless, but can be annoying nonetheless.
The crane fly is often mistaken for a mosquito. It looks similar but is much larger. An easy trick to tell the difference is to compare it to a quarter coin. If it’s bigger than a quarter, it’s a crane fly. If it’s smaller than a quarter, it’s a mosquito.
To minimize exposure to unwanted bugs, especially mosquitos, officials recommend eliminating any standing water you may have around the house. Tip buckets or other items that may have collected water during the recent winter storms. A mosquito egg can become an adult in as little as a week.
“Many of these insects rely on water to complete their life cycle. Once you eliminate the water, you actually eliminate much of the problem,” Sun said.