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Pest Populations Boom In Record Heat

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A hot summer should make for bigger mosquito populations through the rest of the year.
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A hot summer should make for bigger mosquito populations through the rest of the year.

This year, through July, has been the warmest for the continguous United States in recorded history at 4.3 degrees above the long term average. It could also make for a very buggy fall and even winter. Already, those who favor outdoor activities in places like Rock Creek Park are beginning to feel the effects.

"Once the weather started getting a little hot, once you get down the trail a little bit in Rock Creek, the mosquitoes do get pretty bad," says resident Lee Griffith, who now opts to jog on pavement instead of on the trails he once enjoyed. "There's patches where you go through where it's just full of bugs. Makes it pretty unbearable at times to either ride your bike or even jog through."

The experience of Griffith and other outdoor enthusiasts is more than merely anecdotal. Hotter temperatures accelerate the life cycle of pests like mosquitos.

"At 70 degrees fahrenheit, it might take a quelex mosquito about two weeks to complete its lifecycle, says Mike Raupp, an entomologist at the University of Maryland. "When temperature hits 90 degrees, it can complete its life cycle in seven days. The population can double in half the time."

It's not just a matter of nuisance, either. The D.C. Department of Health has detected mosquito borne West Nile Virus in D.C., and four cases of exposure are suspected in Maryland.  Senior Citizens and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk.  Raupp says the drought has helped hold back the mosquito population to a certain extent, but they are ready to surge whenever things get wet.

"Now we're in monsoon season, we're having pop up thunderstorms on a regular basis, containers are being filled with water that water is standing and providing the breeding sites," says Griffith. "So really, we're in for mosquito season from here on out... Last year there were still mosquitos biting in December."

He says as global climate change continues, to expect more years like this.

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