Swarms of mosquitoes have killed cows, deer, horses and other livestock in Louisiana after rain from Hurricane Laura led to an explosion in the pests’ population.
Thousands of mosquitoes have attacked animals as large as bulls, draining their blood and driving the massive creatures to pace in summer heat until they were exhausted, according to a Louisiana State University AgCenter veterinarian, agent and press release.
While recent aerial spraying efforts have helped bring the outbreak of mosquitoes under control, residents and animals in a portion of the state faced clouds of the bloodsucking insects in the days after Laura made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on Aug. 27.
Farmers near where the storm made landfall have probably lost 300 to 400 cattle, said Dr. Craig Fontenot, a large-animal veterinarian based in Ville Platte.
“They’re vicious little suckers,” he said.
Jeremy Hebert, a LSU AgCenter agent in Acadia Parish, told USA TODAY Thursday that residents along costal, marshy areas are accustomed to mosquitoes and expect the population to climb following a heavy rain. But the scale of this outbreak was much larger than Hebert expected: “I’ve never experienced anything like this.”
The species of mosquito doesn’t transmit human diseases easily, Christine Navarre, an extension veterinarian with LSU AgCenter, told USA TODAY on Thursday.
But people in the area needed to take precautions at the peak of the outbreak, Hebert said. He remembers wearing long shirts and pants to cover skin and sprinting to his barn to avoid the clouds of mosquitoes. If he went outside with skin exposed, the insects quickly covered his skin.
“As soon as you would walk outside, your legs would turn black from the sheer amount of mosquitoes,” Hebert said.
While humans are able to cover up, stay inside or swat the insects away, livestock were virtually defenseless against the swarms.
The livestock “can’t get away from (the mosquitoes) … they pace and they pace,” Navarre said. Some of those that survived may face ongoing heath problems like weight loss or susceptibility to disease.
The insects remain a big problem in Calcasieu and Jefferson Davis parishes, though spraying has reduced the severity a bit, said Jimmy Meaux, AgCenter agent for those parishes.
Livestock deaths from mosquitoes aren’t a new phenomenon. Fontenot said they also occurred after Hurricane Lili in 2002 and Hurricane Rita in 2005. Florida and Texas have had similar problems after hurricanes, he said.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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