Suffering from red welts that seem worse than usual?
If so, it’s possible that an Aedes mosquito — pronounced “aid-dees,” like the decade — just got a sip of your blood.
The invasive pest, which arrived in Orange County within the past four years or so, is a nastier version of the mosquitoes that have long called the county home. And it is continuing to spread.
Aedes mosquitoes are distinctive by the white markings on their bodies and legs. And unlike most other mosquitoes, they are active and bite during the day. They also can spread infections such as Zika virus, dengue fever and yellow fever, according to the Orange County Mosquito and Vector Control District.
Aedes mosquitoes have increased from covering five square miles of the county in 2016 to 105 square miles this year, according to the district.
Since July 1, the vector control district has received 199 calls related to mosquitoes in Costa Mesa — mostly concerning bites and complaints of dirty pools and ponds, according to Heather Hyland, the district’s public information officer. Anaheim recorded 693 calls in that span and Garden Grove 374.
Numbers for other cities were not immediately available, Hyland said.
Priscilla Rocco, a Costa Mesa resident who lives on California Street near waterways leading to the Santa Ana River, said she was recently attacked by mosquitoes when she went outside to pick up her mail. About 10 bites on her arm swelled into welts.
Now, when she goes out to garden or do other work outside her house, she wears long pants and even secures her socks with masking tape.
“It’s just gotten ridiculous,” Rocco said. “It’s like going on a deep-sea dive, to have to get suited up.”
Hyland said last summer’s warm weather may have led some people to overwater their plants, creating an environment where mosquitoes could thrive. Community gardens and plant kits, typical during the school year, also can provide a fertile breeding ground for the pests, which swarm to flower pots and water puddles, Hyland added.
Children are especially susceptible to Aedes bites, Hyland said, because the mosquitoes find them running around schoolyards during the day. The mosquitoes are attracted to a person’s heat and natural smell, she added.
“Sometimes they’re going to probe you 40 times just to find the blood,” she said.
Not only are Aedes mosquitoes nastier, they’re sneakier, Hyland said. Their eggs — which they lay in and around containers such as plant saucers — can last for years and hatch once they touch water.
“It’s a whole new ballpark with these guys,” Hyland said.
Costa Mesa City Councilwoman Sandy Genis, who is on the vector control board, said the city often has waves of hyper-awareness about mosquitoes, followed by bouts of laziness. Residents must stay diligent about emptying their flower pots and saucers and eliminating standing water — even in something as small as a bottle cap, Genis said.
Of course, mosquitoes also spread viruses that threaten humans, including West Nile. Last week, mosquitoes collected in Westminster and Anaheim tested positive for St. Louis encephalitis, a virus that does not always affect people but may cause fever, headache, nausea, vomiting and fatigue.
This year, vector control is employing a catchy mantra as part of its mosquito outreach: “tip and toss,” an encouragement to tip over containers and toss extra standing water.
Along with that, Hyland recommends getting rid of saucers beneath plants and avoiding overwatering. Also important is eliminating Aedes mosquito eggs, which look like rows of “little black grains of rice,” she said.
Wearing repellent or lemon eucalyptus oil also can help residents avoid the pests, she said.