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Spring warmth brings out mosquitoes, ticks

East Tennesseans aren't the only ones enjoying the transition to summer.
Mosquito specimens collected by the Knox County Health Department will be tested for viruses.

(WBIR) - As spring settles into summer it means peak activity for people and pests.

"They like to be active when we like to be active," said Dr. Karen Vail. "The weather we like the ticks like, too.

A professor of entomology at the University of Tennessee, Vail says ticks are picky, just like us.

"If it's too hot they are not active, if it's too cold they are not active, too dry they are not active, too wet they are not active," said Vail. "So when we like, they like it."

East Tennesseans likely will see two species - the lone start tick and American dog tick.

RELATED: More ticks this spring after a cold winter

Being aware of a tick's home can help you avoid contact.

"They tend to be in more protected areas like tall vegetation and edges of woods where they are not exposed to direct sun," said Vail.

If you do come face to face with a tick, Vail gives advice on how to handle that.

"The idea is no matter what tick you have on you, to get it off as soon as you can, grab where it attaches to your skin, pull with steady pressure, treat that wound."

She says watch for flu-like symptoms because the tick could be infected.

"We have several different disease causing organisms that these ticks can carry and transmit to people," said Vail.

The warm and muggy weather also brings along the elusive mosquito. Pest company Orkin is now out with top cities for the mosquito. It ranks Knoxville as 20th worst.

Spring weather can give the city a tropical feel, but also it opens doors to the annoying best. After rain, any standing water can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes.

"When it's hot and humid, within five to seven days an egg will hatch out that's been laid," explains Ronnie Nease.

As director of environmental health with the Knox County Health Department, he's begun collecting the bugs.

"We started trapping two weeks ago, trapping adult female mosquitoes. We have a process where we can catch them, we sort them and send them to the lab."

Tests will reveal if any area mosquitoes carry harmful disease.

"West Nile is here," said Nease, "It is just not at the level that it could be transferred."

The severity of mosquito season is tough to predict.

"It has to deal with the weather, the amount of rain, the temperature. There are so many environmental factors that go into being able to predict that, so we can't predict it," said Nease.

The health department will take mosquito samples every week till the first frost in the fall. They do not spray unless West Nile is detected.

Nease says don't let the pesky critters keep you from enjoying your summer.

"Don't keep people inside, don't be afraid of these potentials to be here," said Nease, "Still go out, use appropriate clothing, repellent, still go outside."

The Knox County Health Department will send out specimens today and should receive results at the end of the week. Last year, the county did not have any areas test positive for West Nile Virus until late September.

TIPS FOR PROTECTION (from the Knox County Health Department)

  • Limit outdoor activities between dusk and dawn, if possible, since this is the time of greatest mosquito activity.
  • If you are outside when mosquitoes are prevalent, wear protective clothing such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts and socks.
  • Use a mosquito repellent that contains DEET (the chemical N-N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) and follow the directions on the label. If you are concerned about using repellent products on children, consult a health care provider for advice.
  • Ensure that your home has tight-fitting screens over windows and doors to keep mosquitoes from entering apartments and homes. Be sure that all screens are in good repair.
  • Dispose of, regularly empty, or turn over any water holding containers on your property such as tires, cans, flower pots or trash cans
  • Drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers that are left outdoors
  • Make sure roof gutters drain properly and water doesn't pool in them
  • Change the water in birdbaths twice a week
  • Turn over plastic wading pools and wheelbarrows when not in use
  • Keep swimming pools, outdoor saunas and hot tubs clean and properly chlorinated
  • Remove standing water from pool covers
  • Keep grass cut short and trim shrubs to eliminate hiding places for adult mosquitoes.
  • Clean vegetation and debris from the edges of ponds
  • Fill in hollow tree stumps and rot holes with sand or concrete
  • Aerate ornamental pools or stock them with fish - water gardens are attractive but become major mosquito producers if they are allowed to stagnate