BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. – To the delight of no one, Mississippi’s most feared residents – its voracious flying and biting bugs – are recovering quite nicely from Hurricane Katrina.
Mosquitoes, midges (also known as “no-see-ums” and “flying teeth”) and deer flies have been particularly nasty this summer, making things miserable for work crews and giving the locals something to talk about besides insurance and repairs.
“The midges have been really severe,” says David Mayley, owner of Pest Control Specialists. “There were some areas where you almost couldn’t work outside.”
Mosquitoes have been getting lucky at the Casino Magic construction site, says Marty Moore, senior director of marketing.
“There were some ‘nuclear bugs’ down here right after the storm, and now the mosquitoes are meaner than hell,” he says.
To the west in Pearlington, volunteer firefighter Tommy Dean says deer flies have been the biggest pest.
“We had a real bad year,” he says. “You’ll need stitches (after they bite you). They crawl up under your shirt and suck all the spinal fluid out.”
Mayley suspects that a big decline in the local bat population could be contributing to the banner bug year.
“A lot of the old, beautiful homes were infested with bats, and they’re almost all gone,” he says.
Anecdotal evidence aside, not everyone buys into the theory that the insects are worse than usual this year.
“The raw numbers of mosquitoes are down this year compared to last, but it’s not from control; it’s because it’s dry … real dry,” says Jerome Goddard, a medical entomologist with the Mississippi Department of Health.
The bad news is that the drought conditions favor the southern house mosquito, which can transmit the West Nile virus, he says.
Blake Layton, an entomologist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, says that flying insects with an appetite for human flesh appear to have weathered the storm well, though he hasn’t seen any evidence that they’re more prevalent.
He also says that other forms of insect life that suffered some disruptions in the immediate aftermath of the storm -- such as fire ants -- have recovered.
But the biggest six-legged winners if the post-Katrina environment are likely to be termites and cockroaches, Layton says.
“There’s a lot of downed wood, which will boost the termite populations, … and I’m expecting an increase in cockroaches as well, both the smaller ones that only live indoors, and the big ones – the Americans and smoky browns – that also can live outside,” he says.
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