A wetter spring is expected to produce more mosquitoes than in recent years, but that doesn't guarantee a greater risk of the deadly West Nile virus, experts say.
Oklahoma recorded 12 deaths from West Nile in 2012 and 177 cases of the virus, but the disease is cyclical. Typically, a bad year is not followed by a worse year for the disease, experts say.
Rick Grantham, an entomologist at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, said there are no other threats of disease from mosquitoes.
But plenty of the pests will be in the air because of warm, wet weather coupled with tornado debris, which makes a perfect breeding ground.
“For mosquitoes that breed in containers there could be an increase of the risk of more now,” Grantham said. “Instead of a single container in your backyard there are more possible potential breeding sites.”
Temperatures will be warmer and more rain is in the forecast, he said.
Mosquitoes are producing in central Oklahoma now, said Ray Ridlen, Oklahoma County extension agent.
“Anything that can hold water for five to six days can be a breeding ground for mosquitoes,” Ridlen said
Around home gardens and yards, and tornado debris, people should take precautions now, Ridlen said.
“Even the pail out in the ... sand box can be a breeding site for mosquitoes,” he said.
A good defense is the mosquito dunks — doughnut-shaped, all-natural organic repellent that kills larvae in standing water. The dunks can be tied to a string and fastened or nailed down near places where rainfall leaves puddles.
It is safe enough for birds to drink, so you can put it in a birdbath, Ridlen said.
Water should be dumped daily to stop mosquitoes.
Ridlen said a good way to avoid being bitten is to use mosquito repellent. People also can avoid being outside at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
While experts expect more pesky mosquitoes, the outlook for West Nile is better this year.
Patterns have shown a decrease in West Nile cases following a bad outbreak year.
OSU entomologist Justin Talley in Stillwater, who has studied mosquitoes and the West Nile virus, said the disease actually is spread by birds. Mosquitoes pick up the disease by biting infected birds. Then they bite people.