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Mosquito levels are relatively low - but numbers for those that spread West Nile are high

Get ready to learn about Culex mosquitoes and West Nile Virus.

There's some good news and some bad news when it comes to Minnesota's unofficial state bird, the mosquito.

First, the positive.

The overall number of mosquitos has been increasing, but in general, numbers remain on the low side, the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District (MMCD) said in its latest update

The dry weather is likely the reason for this. The entire state remains, at a minimum, "abnormally dry," with many regions experiencing moderate drought. As the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency explains, eggs only hatch when sufficiently flooded with water. 

Now, the less-good news.

MMCD has found the number of Culex mosquitoes appears to be quite high. This genus, which is most active at dawn and dusk, is the most likely type of mosquito to spread West Nile Virus.

These Culex mosquitoes are being captured all across the district, MMCD says, with the numbers they're collecting "high for this time of year."

The MMCD tested 55 samples for West Nile Virus, all negative. 

"One factor that is on our side is that we are following two consecutive seasons of very low West Nile virus transmission," said Vector Ecologist Kirk Johnson, "and there were likely low numbers of WNV infected adults that overwintered."

However, he's expecting some positive samples in the near future. He also noted it's too early to do any West Nile Virus transmission forecasting.

There are more than 50 mosquito species in Minnesota, and the Minnesota Department of Health says to empty standing water from around your home at least once a week to prevent them from breeding there. Using repellants and wearing loose, long clothing can help prevent mosquitoborne diseases, as can knowing where and when they might be most active.

Despite being undeniably annoying, mosquitos aren't just abundant wastes of space. As the Pollution Control Agency explains, fish and other water carnivores eat mosquito larvae. After hatching, mosquitos are a common and important food source for bats, birds (including hummingbirds, vireos, martins and swallows) dragonflies and spiders. 

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