After Hurricane Laura hit land in the southern United States in late August and devastated the Louisiana coast, storm surges and associated rains inundated the region.
This flooded environment was an ideal breeding ground for some species of mosquitoes, particularly the aptly named flood mosquito which led to a mosquito boom after the deadly storm. In just a few days, mosquitoes have displaced large numbers of cattle, some deer, and some horses in already devastated sections of Louisiana.
Dr. Mike Strain, Louisiana Agriculture and Forestry Officer and Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, raised the issue in a September 10 press release.
“What we see are swarms of mosquitoes chasing exhausted and stressed cattle,” he said.
The swarm after the storm
Hundreds of animals, mostly cattle, died from mosquito bites. Large numbers of bites can cause anemia, and in connection with the exhaustion animals experienced in trying to get away from the insect masses, cattle died in pastures with little escape, according to an Associated Press interview with Dr. Craig Fontenot, a veterinarian in Ville Platte, Louisiana.
A picture that Fontenot shared with Louisiana State University’s AgCenter shows three dead cattle loaded on a flatbed trailer.
Vince Deshotel is a rancher who lost a bull to mosquitos after the hurricane. He is also a livestock specialist for the LSU AgCenter. In a telephone interview with Mashable, he said that the whole thing is only uncomfortable if you are personally affected.
No human deaths from mosquitoes have been reported, but that did not mean that there was no danger to people who could be caught by the mosquitoes. During the worst swarms, people had to stay indoors at certain times when the mosquitoes were most threatening.
“We had to go into the house at rush hour when they came out, at dusk and usually at dawn,” said Deshotel. “Then they are most active. At noon they are not bad.”
The flood mosquitoes that multiply after a flood are not known to transmit diseases such as the West Nile Virus as some of their cohorts do, and therefore pose a slightly lower risk to the larger population. Even so, you don’t want to get caught in a swarm of flood mosquitoes.
In the 24 days since the storm landed, Deshotel said things had calmed down.
“The mosquito situation has decreased significantly because we have had drier weather since Hurricane Laura,” he said.
In addition to the changing weather, the mosquito problem was at least partially resolved by animal owners using pesticides and mosquito control programs monitored by local communities. These programs aren’t ubiquitous, however, and Deshotel said where he lives, about 70 miles north of the coast, the surrounding communities don’t have them.
“We expect to perform again”
He explained one way he could prevent mosquitoes from hunting his own cattle.
“I ordered a soil that they could get on where there was no vegetation for the mosquitoes, so they could retreat to freshly plowed ground where it would give them some comfort,” he said.
Of course, even as technologies improve and our ability to track storms and make predictions becomes more accurate, these forces of nature don’t give much warning.
“It’s something that is difficult to prepare for,” said Deshotel. “You don’t know until it’s too late sometimes.”
Just because it’s difficult to predict what’s going to happen doesn’t mean it’s that rare. The low, flat land of southwest Louisiana is prone to flooding, and Louisiana is no stranger to large storms.
“This hurricane or tropical storm currently brewing in the central Gulf is expected to follow the Texan coast all the way to Louisiana,” Deshotel said, referring to Tropical Storm Beta. “We expect mosquitoes to appear again.”