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'Bloodsucking vampire' mosquitoes set to haunt Florida

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An adult female Psorophora ciliata, shown with adult fingers for scale. An adult female Psorophora ciliata, shown with adult fingers for scale.

By Tracy Jarrett, Staff Writer, NBC News


(NBC) - Brace yourself Florida, there is a "vampire" in your midst -- and this one is not afraid of the sun.

The giant psorophora ciliata mosquito, which is colloquially known as the gallinipper and is 20 times the size of your average mosquito, is set to plague south and central Florida this summer as the rainy season begins.

While these monsters don't carry diseases, their intense bite can feel like a knife piercing your skin and leave you with an itchy welt for up to a week.

According to Deby Cassill, an Associate Professor of Biology at Florida State University, these hairy, long-legged pests, originally thought to be from the Mississippi Delta, made their way to Florida after Tropical Storm Debby brought heavy winds and dropped a bucket load of water on the state last year.

The mosquitos, who migrated with the wind, laid eggs by the billions in the standing water left from the storm, and this year, they are ready to hatch.

"Just like every other mosquito, the females are bloodsucking vampires trying to be good moms and get enough nutrients to produce eggs and the next generation of mosquitos" said Cassill.

While the mosquito season will only last a couple of months until the waters recede, biologists worry about the monster's 24/7 eating habits.

"Most mosquitos feed at dusk and dawn, but these feed all day long, and will eat right through your clothing," said Cassill. The females will feed on anything from cattle and dogs to human blood.

Cassill explained that there will be an alert if mosquito experts find evidence of a gallinipper plague in any given location, but that urban areas are not especially at risk since they already have established mosquito control strategies. Rural areas, on the other hand, will need to be on watch. Residents are asked to be on alert for a loud buzz and to keep their eyes peeled.

In the meantime, bust out the bug spray and DEET, as they are your best line of defense, says Cassill, who also warns to be careful not to swat a just-fed gallinipper.

"If she's loaded with human blood, it will make quite the mess."

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