Mosquitoes attack DeKalb after rains

By Nancy Broten

The heavy rainstorms that brought damage and inconvenience to NIU students and DeKalb residents are one of the reasons for the onslaught of a higher than average number of mosquitoes.

Walking the campus near the saturated edges of the Kishwaukee River or either of the lagoons, one is likely to hear complaints about the mass quantities of the insects, which are cutting short outside walks and leisure activities.

NIU biologist Mary Bowen said, “The World Health Organization has said there are 220 million people afflicted globally each year with malaria,” as well as encephalitis and yellow fever.

ecently, mosquitoes were studied to see if the AIDS virus could be spread by them. However, Bowen believes because of the delicate nature of the AIDS virus, “(mosquitoes) can pick up the virus but can’t transmit (it).”

Despite this year’s intensity of mosquitoes and their subsequent possible danger, neither the University Health Service nor Kishwaukee Hospital have received excessive complaints about the insects.

ealth Service Director Rosemary Lane said she was not aware of any problems being caused by the mosquitoes in the area as far as health-related issues are concerned, with the exception of severe bites.

Still, Bowen believes an effective solution to alleviate the infestation of the insects is overdue. “The more we know about the biology of the mosquito, the more we can formulate (a response).”

Nearly $58,900 was granted to Bowen, who studied at both Northwestern University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, by three top national agencies and organizations in an effort to learn more about mosquitoes and how to guard against the infectious diseases they carry.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases are sponsoring Bowen in her research.

“I’m interested in their host-seeking behavior,” Bowen said, explaining the ability of mosquitoes to control their behavior and choose their host.

Bowen said although “chemists have synthesized everything under the sun and tested these compounds to see how they keep mosquitoes from biting, some pesticides are pretty damaging to the environment, and insects are developing resistance (to them).”

“If we can find out more about how (mosquitoes) control (their) own behavior, we would be better able to design pesticides that aren’t environmentally deleterious,” Bowen said.

Bowen said mosquitoes are not always “in the mood to take a blood meal.” However, if they are, they will bite through the insect repellent, she said.

The heat, carbon dioxide and lactic acid levels in the host body are several known factors drawing mosquitoes to their host, she said.

Until a way is found to alleviate the onslaught of mosquitoes during rainy periods like the one that hit DeKalb recently, “the chemical DEET, found in most mosquito repellants, is still the most effective way of fighting the insects,” Bowen said.