GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — If you're noticing you don't have as many mosquito bites this summer, there's a reason. Experts say the insect population is low this year compared to others.
"Generally, we are out surveilling for most of the month throughout the summer as well as into the early fall," epidemiologist Paul Bellamy says.
This time of year, environmental health staffers with the Kent County Health Department are checking out mosquito traps.
"We have the Triple-E project, we have the West Nile virus project, and we have the Asian Tiger Mosquito project," Bellamy says.
He says fewer insects are getting caught in their traps this year.
"Primarily due, I believe, to a lack of rainfall and things like that, that is a little bit lower this year than maybe some previous years," Bellamy says.
With the latest rain this past weekend, followed by dry conditions, he thinks more insects could be coming.
"That's mostly due to that large amount of rainfall filling up catch basins and other things like that. And then there's no rainfall subsequently after it to then wash them out, allowing for a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes to build up and have a larger amount of population," Bellamy says.
Michigan State University entomology professor Ned Walker says he's less optimistic about a significant increase of the insect.
"I think the likelihood of that is really pretty low," he says. "I think we'd have to have really kind of a makeup, every three or four inch deficit, to have that much rain in order to just generate a single crop of mosquitoes still this season."
So, in terms of the risk of West Nile virus and Triple-E to people, Walker says fewer mosquitoes could mean less transmission.
"Right now, we think the risk for Triple-E is low in contrast with the past couple of years where we've seen more activity, especially in southwestern Michigan, for example," he says.
Bellamy and Walker say while there may be fewer mosquitoes out there now, there are still at least six weeks left of mosquito season for more to get out there, so they encourage people to continue wearing appropriate clothing and bug spray to protect themselves.
►Make it easy to keep up to date with more stories like this. Download the 13 ON YOUR SIDE app now.