ORONO, Maine — There is nothing to hate about summertime in Maine, except, of course, mosquitoes and black flies.
These flying pests are as common in Maine as potato fields, lobsters and blueberry barrens — but not this summer.
That is because high temperatures and dry weather have contributed to a statewide decrease in the pests in 2010, according to Dr. Jim Dill, pest management specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service.
“This is something we are seeing statewide,” Dill said Monday. “Overall, the mosquito population is down. It is not as prevalent with black flies, but there are fewer of those as well. The dry and hot weather is mainly responsible. We have had a hot summer, and these pests seek out shady areas when the temperature gets above 85 degrees or so. That means they aren’t as visible.”
Preliminary figures provided by the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University last week indicated that 28 cities from Washington, D.C., to Caribou set record highs for average temperature from March through August. A heat wave July 4-9 brought oppressive humidity and temperatures in the upper 90s and low 100s in many areas of the Northeast, breaking records from Maine to West Virginia.
At the same time, Maine has had significantly more sun than rain this year. According to the National Weather Service in Caribou, Bangor had 9.4 inches of rain from June to the end of August 2009. This year, it has received 8.4 inches. In Aroostook County, rivers, streams and ponds are lower in some places. Along the Medux-nekeag River in Houlton, the water is so low at some points that parts of the riverbed are exposed.
“Mosquitoes have also been scarcer because it has been so dry,” Dill said. “There hasn’t been as much rain, so there haven’t been as many puddles and pools of water to attract them.”
There are roughly 40 species of mosquitoes in Maine, according to the Maine Forest Service, but slightly less than half are considered biting pests of humans. The numerous ways to protect against being bitten include eliminating breeding sites and using protective clothing and insect repellents.
Some people may not have needed to take preventive action, as the lack of water also has meant a smaller breeding ground for mosquitoes, Dill said Monday.
“In some areas, with the lack of rain, a lot of the usual breeding sites such as small streams and pools of water have dried up,” he said. “When they dried up, so did the breeding grounds. That is another reason why people aren’t seeing as many of the pests flying around.”
Dill said the lack of mosquitoes likely has had an impact on the animal kingdom, in particular the predators that feed on the insects.
Predators such as dragonflies, bats, birds, frogs and certain fish all feed on the pests and provide some natural control of mosquitoes, according to the Maine Forest Service. Dill said it’s likely there are fewer dragonflies out there because of the lack of mosquitoes, but he said other mosquito-eating animals likely haven’t been as affected because they have other food sources.
While more people might be using less bug spray and calamine lotion this year, Dill acknowledged that not everyone is celebrating.
“This doesn’t mean that everyone is seeing less mosquitoes,” Dill noted. “There are still many patches of the state where they are just as thick as they normally are.”