A number of emails have circulated recently regarding so-called monster mosquitoes or gallinippers.
Described as ďOne of the most ferocious insects you've ever heard of; the size of a quarter and with a painful bite compared to being knifed.Ē
Oh please. This sounds like Jaws with wings.
Gallinippers, properly known as Psorophora ciliata, are a large species of mosquito native to Florida. They are floodwater mosquitoes, which means the females lay their eggs on the ground in areas likely to flood. The eggs may stay dormant there for years but, as soon as standing water accumulates, the baby mosquitoes rapidly mature.
Gallinippers are rare in Florida except after a tropical storm or an active storm season.
In a telephone interview, Dr. Phil Kaufman of the University of Florida said these insects favor cool shady areas with lots of standing water.
Kaufman, who lives in Gainesville, said they are tenacious biters. He said that last year after Tropical Storm Debby, when he sampled in the woods around Gainesville, the gallinippers would continue to follow him after most other species had given up the hope of a fresh meal. Gallinippers do not commonly carry disease organisms although they may sometimes vector viruses. Adult gallinippers feed exclusively on mammals. Most disease bearing mosquitoes feed on birds as well.
Given the amount of rain that has already fallen and the very mild winter we have experienced, Kaufman said 2013 may be another banner year for the gallinippers, but not necessarily in Franklin County.
While these mosquitoes are found throughout the eastern US, they prefer inland locations. You might encounter a few in Tateís Hell but coastal dwellers, especially those on the island are not likely to be troubled by gallinippers. They are not strong flyers and donít fare well under windy conditions.
Donít worry; there will be plenty of other mosquitoes buzzing around your ears.
To avoid being bitten, cover up and wear insect repellant when you go outside. Avoid going out at dusk and dawn. Thatís prime time for hungry mosquitoes although some, gallinippers among them, will also bite during the day.
Many mosquito species lay their eggs in standing water so donít allow water to stagnate in plastic toys, bird baths, buckets, tires, potted plants, gutters, etc.
The name gallinipper is also used to refer to another type of fly, the crane flies or Tipulids. These delicate creatures bear a superficial resemblance to mosquitoes but lack the needle-like mouth that allows female mosquitoes to drink blood and both sexes to sip nectar from flowers. Nectar, not blood, is the staple food of adult mosquitoes. Only females drink blood to obtain protein for egg production.
Mosquito larvae are tiny, fierce, aquatic predators that feed on small insects including other mosquito larvae and even small fish and tadpoles.
Mosquitoes are pollinators of plants including grasses, goldenrod and orchids.