Influx of bugs annoys local residents, experts say don’t panic

Influx of bugs annoys local residents, experts say don’t panic

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - People living near water in New Orleans complained this week about swarms of bugs many thought were mosquitoes. But entomologists said they are not mosquitoes, but instead non-biting midges.

Silvina Henry lives in the far eastern section of the city near Lake Pontchartrain.

"See, all here in the chairs. They were inside but I sprayed inside, and I mopped,” she said pointing to dozens of tiny bugs dead on her porch.

For Henry and her neighbors life has not been the same over the past few days.

"I’m thinking of mosquitoes, I’m still thinking it’s mosquitoes and I’m still scared,” Henry said while pointing to lots of the bugs attached to her neighbor’s siding.

Ed Freytag, a research entomologist at the New Orleans Mosquito Control Board held a see-through container with live midges inside as he talked to members of the news media on Friday (June 14).

"I'm holding what is called a non-biting midge, everybody's scared of them because they haven't seen them in these kinds of numbers,” said Freytag.

And calls about the bugs to the agency increased significantly.

"So, in east New Orleans right now everybody’s calling the Mosquito Control office,” Freytag stated.

Though not mosquitoes, the natural habitat for midges is the same.

"These guys grow in water like mosquitoes, but the adults emerge in large numbers,” Freytag stated.

Neighboring Jefferson Parish is not immune to the bugs, either.

"We are seeing some midges; we have monitoring devices throughout the parish and the non-biting midges are appearing in our monitoring devices. Not as bad as sometimes,” said Steven Pavlovich, entomologist for Mosquito Control Services of Jefferson Parish.

Like in New Orleans, they are showing up near bodies of water.

"The midges that we are seeing are closer to the lake, some of the areas along the southern portion of the parish in Lafitte, Barataria,” Pavlovich said.

Neither New Orleans or Jefferson is spraying to eradicate the midges.

"There’s no reason to panic, the only thing is they're a nuisance, so they're going to get on your windows, they're going to get on your doors, they're going to get on eaves, on your car, but in a couple of days they'll all be dead,” said Freytag.

"We're not really spraying for midges although some of the products that we use will have some minor effect on their population,” Pavlovich said.

But New Orleans and Jefferson Parish are spraying for mosquitoes and monitoring for mosquito-transmitted diseases like the West Nile virus.

"So far this year we haven't detected any encephalitides, the West Nile being the most prominent here in Jefferson Parish,” Pavlovich said.

Freytag said no West Nile has been detected in New Orleans, either.

"As far as I know we haven't had any problems yet, but we are very vigilant,” he said.

As the official start of summer nears there are things everyone can do to reduce the breeding of mosquitoes around homes.

"In reducing the amount of water around their homes, mainly in containers, and there can be standing water beneath the home, if they can flush those areas out,” said Pavlovich.

Freytag agreed.

"Also, if you have a kiddie pool, if you have a boat in the back make sure that it's not holding water,” said Freytag.

He added that it is a good idea to wear long sleeves and use repellent when mosquitoes are around.

Henry and her neighbors are glad it’s not mosquitoes that are bugging their neighborhood.

"Yes, I'm much, much relieved, yes. I'm very comfortable to know they're annoying but I won't get bitten by them,” said Henry.

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