DEM: 'I've never seen so many mosquitos'

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Backyard barbecuers in Rhode Island beware: mosquitos are out in force this summer.

Al Gettman, the mosquito abatement coordinator for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, said there has been a population "explosion" of mosquitos over the last few weeks across the state. He said the DEM sets traps to monitor mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis and officials check the traps each week. He said that while the mosquitos tested so far this season have been negative for the diseases, he's noticed a marked increase in the numbers of mosquitos caught in the traps.

"Last week, on June 24, we picked up huge, huge numbers," he said. "I've been here 21 years and I've never seen so many mosquitos. Much more than I've ever seen before."

Mr. Gettman said the wet weather is partly to blame. He said the mosquitos lay their eggs along the dry edges of puddles, ponds and just about anywhere else water gathers. When it rains, the puddles flood and the mosquito eggs hatch ... in some cases, even a small habitat like an empty pot with a small amount of water can produce thousands of hungry mosquitos.

"We had a huge amount of rain in June, and this produced this big crop (of mosquitos)," Mr. Gettman said. "This big crop that just showed up, their numbers are already diminishing."

Mr. Gettman said adult mosquitos will live for about three weeks. He added that as puddles dry up, more mosquitos will lay their eggs near those spots, and that future rainfall could mean an additional bloom of new mosquitos.

Mr. Gettman said the DEM purchases and distributes mosquito larvacide to towns across the state in an effort to keep the mosquito population in check. Town public works departments are responsible for placing the larvacides in catch basins and other areas where mosquitos are likely to lay eggs, although Mr. Gettman warned that female mosquitos have shown a tendency to search out "non-permanent bodies of water" like backyard buckets that are harder for officials to treat.

The DEM official recommends residents check their yards for possible mosquito breeding grounds, and empty items containing stagnant water. He also said residents could call their public works departments and report potential problem spots, like a neighbor who has allowed a discarded aquarium gather rain water.

"If I get a call about someone with a swimming pool problem (mosquitos breeding in a neglected pool), I go to the DPWs first," he said. "My office has no enforcement capability."

Mr. Gettman said his department's recent check of traps on July 1 continued to show a higher than normal mosquito population.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.