Biologists expect tick and mosquito populations to thrive this spring, largely because mild temperatures from last winter failed to kill off a large population of the disease-carrying pests.
Technicians in Hampton are already finding mosquito larvae matured four to six weeks ahead of schedule, said Tim DuBois, Hampton Environmental Services Division biologist.
"We're out there larviciding a lot more and surveying the area," DuBois said. "In March and April we really don't see a lot of larvae, but this year, we're seeing quite a bit."
Tom Gallagher, York County's Mosquito Control Program superintendent, said warm weather and a wet spring have created prime conditions for a spike in the mosquito population.
Gallagher's staff is currently stocking stormwater ponds with mosquito-eating fish and placing biological larvicide in drainage ditches to reduce larvae populations.
Officials from both York County and Hampton expressed interest in partnering with Langley Air Force Base to participate in the base's aerial spraying this year.
Williamsburg plans to spray and fog public streets on a weekly basis, from June through September as a preventative measure, officials said. City workers will also conduct on-site yard inspections to help eliminate mosquito breeding sites.
James City County General Services Manager John Horne said there are no plans to reinstate the full mosquito program or to perform extra spraying this year.
"By the time we were logistically capable of spraying, the demand had really gone down," he said.
James City County cut its mosquito program in 2009 for budgetary reasons.
A bad season?
In Norfolk, officials are finding mosquito larvae maturing at a rate of three to four weeks ahead of schedule, said Penelope Smelser, Norfolk Public Health Department environmental health specialist.
"We're seeing earlier activity, but not at an alarming number," Smelser said. "Things can go week by week, so it's hard to say what that means for the rest of the summer."
The Asian tiger mosquito can be blamed almost 90 percent of the time someone in Virginia suffers a mosquito bite, according to the state Health Department. The mosquitoes only bite during the daytime and only occasionally will bite at night when outdoor lighting is present.
The Asian tiger mosquito doesn't mature until June, meaning a majority of the mosquito population that is attracted to humans is still unaccounted for.
Current conditions won't necessarily predict whether the entire summer will be consumed by mosquitoes, both Smelser and DuBois said.
"Whether it's going to be a bad season, it's really on a week-to-week basis," DuBois said. "It depends on if there's a good amount of rain and heat this year."
A stretch of dry conditions could kill off larvae, biologists said.
The tick situation
An increasing tick population is a new situation for Hampton, DuBois said.