Hurricane-Spawned Mosquitoes Are Sucking Livestock Dry in Louisiana

  • What an awful, awful way to go…

If you were to live in a horror story, you might have a vampire spreading fear in your home area. The bloodsucking creature of the night will leave in its wake nothing but blood-drained corpses.

That’s already bad enough, but what if it wasn’t just one vampire? What if instead you had teeming clouds of tiny vampires flying around?

Unfortunately for the residents of Louisiana, they’re been thrown into middle of that horror story. A five-parish area in southwest Louisiana is currently being terrorized by a swarming clouds of mosquitoes.

The buzzing bloodsuckers spawned in the aftermath of the rains that Hurricane Laura brought into the region. As if the widespread destruction wrought by the storm itself wasn’t enough.

Mosquito larvae live in water, and as such Laura’s torrential rains were a blessing for the insects. The huge, stagnant puddles left behind by the rains proved prime spawning pools for the mosquitoes.

Jeremy Hebert, a Louisiana State University AgCenter agent, told USA Today that residents of the Bayou State are generally used to mosquitoes. I mean, they’d have to be if they live in Louisiana.

The state’s marshy, dank coastline is and has always been mosquito country. If you asked the locals, they would tell you that little pests always show up in large numbers after rain.

But what we’ve seen since Laura is something else entirely.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this,” Hebert told USA Today.

The sound of death is the buzz of a million tiny wings.

‘Vicious Suckers’

The clouds of mosquitoes are so thick that authorities are recommending that locals take appropriate precautions. Herbert says that T-shirts and shorts are on the no-no list and urges everyone in the area to wear long sleeves and pants.

“As soon as you would walk outside, your legs would turn black from the sheer amount of mosquitoes,” he said.

But while humans might be able to cover up, the story is different for the livestock of Louisiana’s farmers. Being stuck outside, they have no protection against the mosquitoes.

In fact, the bloodthirsty insects are so numerous that their swarms have turned lethal. Hundreds of animals – even as large as cows, bulls, horses, and deer – have died in the hands of the mosquitoes.

In the hands? At the mercy of their proboscises? Proboscii? Do excuse me, this is not a subject for jokes.

The clouds of mosquitoes have been reported to blanket the animals completely. The horrendous number of bites leaves them anemic and bleeding under their skins, Dr Craig Fontenor, a Louisiana large-animal veterinarian, told the Associated Press.

What’s worse, the animals keep pacing around in a futile attempt to get away from the swarms. Lacking oxygen, they soon exhaust themselves and succumb to blood loss.

“They’re vicious little suckers,” Fontenot told Associated Press in what we’re going to describe as a bit of an understatement.

According to Fontenot, possibly 400 or more cattle have been killed in the mosquito-impacted areas. One deer rancher, he said, had lost 30 out of his 110 animals, costing him more than $100,000.

Even the animals that have survived may be facing life-long health problems. Sure, they’re alive, but at what cost?

Air Support Inbound

In some of the still-affected parishes, farmers and authorities have started conduction aerial insecticide sprayings to control the bugs. This is probably where you’d expect us to say that it’s to no avail, but the toxins have actually helped.

“The spraying has dropped the populations tremendously. It’s made a night-and-day difference,” Hebert told Associated Press.

Horse owners have had an easier time with the mosquitoes, since their animals stay mostly in stables. Applying insecticides is much easier in enclosed spaces.

Cattle farmers, on the other hand, are still struggling. In addition to sprayings, officials are recommending the use of fans and covering the animals with special protective suits and blankets.

However, these are not foolproof solutions. The fan air stream has a limited range, and AgCenter veterinarian Dr Christine Navarre warns that in the late-summer heat, the animal coverings could cause heat stress.

According to Navarre, there are also insecticide products that can be applied directly onto the animals.

“Basically, there are many products that can be applied to the animals, either in a spray, spot-on or with back rubs. It will depend on what is available locally and what works for the situation,” Navarre told ARY News.

Historical Pests

While the clouds of mosquitoes seen now are on a massive scale, it’s not the first time hurricanes have given birth to swarming insects. The same thing happened in Louisiana, Texas, and elsewhere with Hurricane Rita in 2005 and Hurricane Lili in 2002, says Fontenot.

In Texas, for instance, the numbers of salt-grass mosquitoes surged so greatly after Rita that they made life incredibly difficult for workers trying to repair the storm’s damages. As a result, Jefferson County Commissioner Mark Domingue enlisted the US Air Force to help with the bugs.

Domingue at the time told Houston Chronicle at the time that mosquito populations are calculated by seeing how many insects land on an exposed human thigh in three minutes.

Normally, that number is somewhere from three to five. In 2005, parts of Texas reported numbers ranging from 65 to 200.

No wonder they needed military intervention. Furthermore, any scientist or official who sacrificed their thigh for the mosquito count, whether back in 2005 or during this year… Oddee salutes you.