The dreaded gallinipper mosquito is six times larger than the average skeeter. It jabs like a stab. It’s tough enough to take the first swat and not drop.
These things aren’t just monsters, they’re pterodactyls. And they’re swarming regions in South and North Carolina where Hurricane Florence flooding is widespread.
So far they haven’t shown up much in the Charleston area, where relatively little rain fell from the September storm except for the northern stretch of Berkeley County, which was closer to Florence’s deluge.
But residents here aren’t in the clear, a taxonomist warns.
“It’s still hurricane season. If we have the type of rain event they had, we could see the type of event they’re seeing,” said Ed Harne, with Charleston County Mosquito Control.
The giant mosquitoes have shown up among swarms of others in Horry County, including around Myrtle Beach.
County crews have been working overtime, spraying mornings and evening. Three or four aerial spraying aircraft are flying and County Council just allocated $3 million to keep fumigating, said spokeswoman Kelly Moore.
“The crews are incredibly busy right now,” she said.
Berkeley County mosquito crews encountered a few gallinippers after the Florence rains, county spokeswoman Hannah Moldenhauer said. But they saw more after the heavy rains in July.
Other types of skeeters have been swarming in the county but have eased off in the past few days, she said.
Like other mosquitoes, gallinippers don’t travel more than a few miles from where they were bred. They’re not common, but they’re not rare either, Harne said.
It just takes a lot of flooding for them to show up in any numbers. Right now, most of the Charleston area is just too dry.
As for all those tinier skeeters you’re swatting at?
“I hate to tell you this, but you’re seeing container breeders,” Harne said.
Those are mosquitoes that lay eggs in confined spots like that pool of rainwater you left in the flower pot in your yard. Their eggs are multi-generational, so the eggs can keep hatching long after a rain falls.
Want a bright spot? Gallinippers aren’t as big as some of the other critters found in the Lowcountry.
“They’re not as huge as people think they are. As mosquitoes go they’re huge. In relation to other insects they’re not,” Harne said.
But, “when you’ve got a swarm of mosquitoes on you, it doesn’t matter how big they are,” he said.