It’s mosquito season

Summer’s here and the time is right for mosquitos

LAKE COUNTY — Summer has officially arrived at last, and Baldwin residents once again find themselves plagued with our annual infestation of insects. This year, the flying pests seem particularly abundant and annoying, doing their best to spoil picnics, boating excursions and gardening. Adding to the irritation are the clouds of tiny gnats that seem so attracted to human faces and an unusually high population of those ever-disgusting summer visitors, ticks.

Nature experts at the local Michigan State University Extension report that weather conditions this spring were particularly propitious for the breeding of bugs in the area. Lots of spring rain and high humidity left this part of Northwest Michigan with plenty of standing water, providing a perfect environment for mosquito eggs. These eggs typically hatch within 48 hours, and as larva feed on microorganisms and organic debris. After passing through a pupal stage, adult mosquitos emerge primed and ready to go.

Not all mosquitos are villains — the male of the species subsists largely on nectar, and is not equipped with piercing mouth-parts. Female mosquitos, on the other hand, like nothing better than blood! (They use blood protein to produce their eggs.) While few people have anything good to say about these nuisances, one has to admire the way in which they have evolved to protect their own interests: Female mosquitos have a built-in saliva component that retards clotting. It is this additive that causes the maddening itching and swelling.

Fortunately, the mosquitos flying around Lake County these days are generally not the type that cause illness or disease — although public health officials keep careful watch on bug populations to reduce the risk of diseases. They are aware as well of the danger posed by international travel and try to keep citizens informed of the potential threat of serious illness that may be caused by bug-bites.

Ordinary residents can do their part to limit the growth of the insect population on their own property. A the top of the list: Eliminate standing water. Any outdoor container should be drained regularly. By the same token, ornamental ponds are less likely to provide a breeding ground for insects if they are equipped with a fountain or stocked with gold-fish (a natural predator of mosquitos).

Another recommendation: Keep lawns cut short. Insects love tall grass and weeds; once these hideouts are eliminated, the bug population goes down. If all else fails, try planting citronella, or using citronella torches, which have a fragrance particularly offensive to mosquitos.

Many Baldwin residents have noticed that this year, ticks in the area are especially bold. Encountering ticks in the woods or near swampy terrain is more or less to be expected, but lately these nasty creatures have ventured into residential areas.

Some ticks, of course, are anything but a joke. As everyone knows, ticks carry Lyme disease, which is a potentially serious disease. However, Baldwin residents will be relieved to learn that most of the ticks found around here are wood ticks rather than the far more dangerous deer ticks that transmit Lyme disease.

Wood ticks are easily recognized: Approximately the size of an apple seed, they are black in color, with a flat body and eight legs. Should you find either of these, remove them carefully with tweezers; try not to crush the tick’s body — flush it down the toilet instead.

Finally, be aware of the symptoms of Lyme disease: Fatigue, fever and chills, headache, muscle and joints pain, swollen lymph nodes and a rash. If any of these symptoms occur, consult your doctor.