The rainy season could bring a bumper crop of gallinippers – coin-sized, aggressive pests that cause more than a little pain.
A gallinipper and a normal-sized mosquito (Marisol Amador/UF IFAS)
By Sky News US Team
Florida is bracing for a summer invasion of giant mosquitoes whose bite has been compared with “being knifed”.
University of Florida scientists say the half-inch insects, called gallinippers, are likely to swarm the Sunshine State after recent tropical storms made it the species’ perfect breeding ground.
“I wouldn’t be surprised, given the numbers we saw last year,” said entomologist Phil Kaufman, a professor at the university’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
At the size of a US 25-cent piece, the notoriously aggressive gallinippers are 20 times the size of a common mosquito.
And with their bigger size also comes a bigger bite.
“The bite really hurts, I can attest to that,” Professor Kaufman said.
Gallinippers – whose scientific name is Psorophora ciliate – are not considered an invasive species as they are native to the eastern half of North America.
They have attained almost mythical status in the Deep South, featuring in folk tales and even blues songs that mention their “fearsome bite”.
And they are a particularly hearty bug.
Adult females lay their eggs at the edges of streams and ponds, and the eggs can lay dormant for years until the water rises with heavy rains and causes them to hatch.
Last year saw a sharp increase in their numbers after Tropical Storm Debby brought torrential rains to the state, scientists say.
“When we hit the rainy cycle we may see that again,” Mr Kaufman said.
On the up side, the insects are not major transmitters of diseases such as malaria, as common mosquitoes are.