Big news on the bug front this week from the state of Florida: Scientists are warning that conditions may be ripe for a swarm of monster mosquitoes to invade the state this summer. Dubbed the "Gallinippers," the mosquitoes are the size of a quarter and known to chow on everything from humans to pets to fish. Their larvae can eat tadpoles, and unlike regular mosquitoes, they feed day and night and can bite through clothing. If the rainy season is wet enough, there could be a mess of these pests in Florida, just in time to plague Gov. Rick Scott (R) at county fairs and community picnics on the campaign trail.
Which would be sort of poetic justice. After all, under Scott's leadership, Florida's famous mosquito abatement programs have taken a sizeable hit in the past two years, as I chronicled in this story in our print magazine this month. Here are the critical deets:
The state Legislature has also done its part to liberate mosquitoes from the shackles of big government. In 2011, the Republican-dominated Legislature slashed the state's contribution to mosquito control by 40 percent. Florida A&M University closed one of two major mosquito research labs in the state after the Legislature axed $500,000 in research funds. Public health officials succeeded in restoring money to keep the lab open, only to see Scott kill it with a stroke of his veto pen. Along with other budget cuts, the closure halved the number of Florida scientists working on mosquito control.
"There's maybe a perfect storm of sorts," says Joseph Conlon, a technical adviser to the American Mosquito Control Association in Florida. "You've got the government rightfully trying to cut budgets across the board, but down here in Florida, the place would be uninhabitable without mosquito control."
The state is increasingly less prepared to handle mosquitoes even as the bugs in question get bigger and bigger. Luckily for people in Florida, the monster mosquitos are likely to just be really, really annoying. Unlike regular mosquitoes, these particular ones, while huge, don't carry deadly diseases like malaria and West Nile. Still, there's nothing like giant mosquitoes at a tea party rally to enlighten citizens about the benefits of big government.