Expect a healthy crop of mosquitoes this spring, say a pair of experts. Credit a typical snowy Maine winter followed by an abundance of rain this spring for the buzzing, they add.

At least there are a few new weapons in the arsenal to keep the pests at bay.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending the use of repellents containing the chemical picaridin or the oil of lemon eucalyptus for “long-lasting protection against mosquito bites.”

Picaridin and the oil join DEET-based repellents as those considered the best protection against disease-bearing mosquitoes, as well as other biting bugs.

And Dave Struble and Jim Dill each said new lines of bug-be-gone clothing being sold by L.L. Bean and other retailers that cater to outdoors types are proving effective. The clothing has been sprayed or soaked with Permanone, an insecticide consisting of the chemical permethrim, they said.

Struble is the state entomologist. Dill is the University of Maine Extension Service entomologist.

“Mosquitoes breed in standing water. Black flies breed in moving water. We’ve had plenty of both,” said Struble in forecasting a typical Maine plague of the pests.

“For black flies,” said Dill, the heavy winter snowfall “doesn’t make a lot of difference” since they mature in swift running rivers and streams. “Snow melt and rain will not affect their populations too much,” he added.

But for mosquitoes, Dill said, “it might be a good year, or a bad year, depending on if you are a entomologist or a consumer, or being consumed.”

He suggested that people renew their acquaintances with their neighbors after the long winter and initiate a spring dumping of water from old tires, buckets left outside, rain gutters and elsewhere.

“Birdbaths should be flushed once a week, too,” he noted.

He said if standing water is removed from neighborhoods it will help to reduce mosquito numbers.

Struble and Dill both said that people should take precautions to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. The flying insects are known carriers of a variety of diseases, most recently the West Nile virus.

Dill said, “It’s only a matter of time” before West Nile turns up in a human victim in Maine. It’s already been found in birds here, he said.

Struble said people also need to take steps to protect themselves against deer ticks. Those bloodsuckers aren’t affected one way or another by snowfall and rain, both men noted, since populations are already burrowed into the flesh of hosts.

The entomologists said that besides using DEET-laced products – Dill said no more than 30 percent DEET is needed for adequate protection – people should take steps to tuck their pants legs into socks, boots or gaiters to keep the bugs at bay.

In Maine, deer ticks are known to carry Lyme disease, which can result in debilitating arthritis-like symptoms.

Struble said that the “bug-off” clothing sprayed with Permanone is effective against ticks as well as mosquitoes and black flies.

Dill also noted that Permanone can be reapplied to the clothing if needed. It should provide protection through several washings, he said, and might be more acceptable to some people than wearing repellents.


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