Hurricane Florence has passed, but she’s left behind another little (actually, not so little) gift for already storm-weary North Carolinans: a hatch-out of giant, vicious mosquitoes, as reported by HuffPost.
They’re called “gallinippers,” a cute-sounding name for the not-so-cute Psorophora ciliata, a species that can grow three times larger than regular mosquitoes. They’re swarming the areas of the state flooded by the storm, spawning jokes that North Carolina has a new state bird.
The huge insects, among the largest mosquitoes in the world, can be seen on social media. In one video, a child is heard asking: “Why are you doing that — taking pictures of the wasps?” “They’re not wasps, baby, they’re mosquitoes,” the woman filming the video answers as the insects cover her car’s windows.
The woman who filmed the video, Cassie Vadovsky, compared the swarm to a snowstorm, and said it hit her area a few days after Florence passed.
“It didn’t hit automatically. It was more gradual. It took maybe three or four days after the storm passed before it got to this epidemic level,” she told USA Today. “And I’m not even on the side of town that had the major flooding. Imagine how bad it could be over on that end.”
Gallinippers, also called “shaggy-legged gallinippers,” are floodwater mosquitoes. The females (the ones that bite) lay their eggs in low-lying areas with damp soil and grassy overgrowth. After such an area floods, the eggs hatch, becoming adults in just six days, according to the University of Florida’s entomology website.Like other mosquitoes, the females crave a blood meal before they can lay their eggs.
“They’re like something out of a bad science fiction movie,” says Fayetteville resident Robert Phillips.
“They were inundating me, and one landed on me,” he told The Fayetteville Observer. “It was like a small blackbird. I told my wife, ‘Gosh, look at the size of this thing.’ I told her that I guess I’m going to have to use a shotgun on these things if they get any bigger.”
Relief is on the way, however. Governor Roy Cooper ordered $4 million in funding for mosquito control efforts in the 27 counties that are under a major disaster declaration.
Craven County Health Director Scott Harrelson thanked Cooper for helping provide “a critical public health service” in the storm’s wake. “This has been a serious issue for our county and many others impacted by Hurricane Florence,” he says.
Although the governor’s office assured residents that most floodwater mosquitoes do not transmit disease, it said in a statement that “they still pose a public health problem by discouraging people from going outside and hindering recovery efforts.”
Michael Reiskind, an associate professor in North Carolina State University’s department of entomology and plant pathology, advised residents to wear insect repellent and long-sleeved clothing to protect themselves from bites.
That may not be enough, however. The professor told KENS 5 News that this species is able to bite through one or two layers of cotton “pretty easily.”