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  xThursday, August 07, 2003

skeeter-rific


Coming as a surprise to no one after the wet summer we've had so far, but Indianapolis is now home to a veritable plague of mosquitoes. Indeed, the wet weather has resulted in a bumper crop of the bloodsucking bugs, as eggs that have lain on dry ground for several years have been hatching.
Mosquitoes by the millions are swarming Hoosiers, forcing them to reach for the bug spray or driving them indoors as city officials log hundreds of complaints a week and increase spraying.

"I've been staying in. It's just too annoying to be out there," said Paula Ortman, of Knightstown, who's been bitten recently by swarms of mosquitoes around home, at Turkey Run State Park and at a ballgame in Greenfield.

Bug experts say all those rains in early July soaked dormant eggs laid by mosquitoes over the past several years in wooded areas.

"We're getting all the eggs from last year and the year before that and the year before that and the year before that," said Robert Waltz, state entomologist for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

"You end up getting large numbers of mosquitoes rapidly," Waltz said.

Luckily, these curse-inducing pests are not the main carriers of West Nile virus. Call it the silver lining in the dark cloud of mosquitoes hovering around your head.

But local officials are fighting back anyway.

In Marion County, the mosquito control division of the Health Department has doubled its evening crews spraying for adult skeeters.

Up to 16 trucks a night are heading out to attack hungry swarms. One recent night, the trucks sprayed 334.7 miles. In the daytime, up to 14 employees spray wet areas with oil to kill mosquito larvae.

"We're probably fielding anywhere from 200 to 300 complaints a day, and we've been doing that for the last two weeks," said Rick Mack, a supervisor in mosquito control.

We sometimes take a walk around the neighborhood after dinner. Lately, our spontaneous jaunts have given way to a NASA-like ritual of changing into light or long-sleeved clothing and hosing ourselves down with repellent.





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