Time to stock up on bug spray. “Gallinipper” mosquitoes — one of the world’s largest and most aggressive mosquito species — are expected to descend on Florida this summer. Experts say that the big jump in numbers of gallinippers is related to heavy rains and flooding caused by Tropical Storm Debby last summer. Up to 20 times larger than other mosquito species, these blood-thirsty insects are strong enough to bite through clothing and their bite has been compared to getting stabbed with a knife.

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Although gallinippers are not known for spreading disease, their bites are more painful than an ordinary mosquito bite. Because it’s much larger than an average mosquito, a gallinipper attack may feel “ like a small bird has landed on you,” said Doug Carlson, mosquito control director for Indian River County in an interview for WPTV.

The Alachua County Commission has decided not to use anti-mosquito spraying (which many other counties in Florida are doing) because of concerns about its cost effectiveness and environmental impact. Instead, the county will focus on maintaining retention basins and tracking the movement of the insects.

These mosquitoes usually hatch during heavy rains or floods. The invasion of mature gallinippers, expected to hit Florida this summer, can be explained by warmer winters and an increase in stagnant waters left over from Tropical Storm Debby that hit the state last summer. More rainfall would certainly worsen the situation. In light of rising sea levels and global warming, accompanied by winter warming trends and extra rain, the giant gallinipper mosquitos may become permanent residents of the low-lying US state.

Via University of Florida News and Grist

Photos by Flickr BenSeese and garreyf