Mosquitoes suck.

Literally, they do it by inserting their proboscis, a syringe with a hollow needle that pierces your skin to probe for blood. Figuratively, because of the tormenting itch that ensues, and because of the utter ubiquity of the pest come summertime.

It’s mosquito month in Maine and so far this year, they’re particularly biting.

“We have a bumper crop of mosquitoes this season because it rained so much in the past weeks,” said Charlene Donahue, entomologist for the Maine Forest Service. “They have had a place to complete their development and they are out looking for somebody to bite.”

Most mosquitoes emerge in spring and die out after one generation, but the species of mosquito that cycles through multiple generations during summer depends on water and warm temperatures to keep breeding, Donahue said.

Because weather is unpredictable, there is no way to predict whether the influx of mosquitoes will continue through summer, said Chuck Lubelczyk, a field biologist at Maine Medical Center.

“If there is more rain in June and July there will continue to be more mosquitoes,” he said. “There’s a reason they call them the state bird of Maine.”

Lubelczyk spends the summer trapping mosquitoes by the thousands throughout the state, sending them to be tested for diseases like Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile virus.

“In Maine EEE is more of a concern,” Lubelczyk said. “We have been unpleasantly surprised finding it in the state, especially near red maple and cedar swamps.”

In 2009, the virus killed more than a dozen horses in Maine. Since 2005, human cases have been reported in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

People with West Nile virus usually recover on their own, but EEE is a more serious viral infection. One-third of those identified with the symptoms die of the disease, and half of the survivors suffer from permanent brain damage, according to the Maine CDC.

Though researchers have been finding birds and horses that test positive for EEE and West Nile since 2001, there haven’t been human cases in Maine yet, Lubelczyk said.

“Mosquitoes can not only ruin your picnic, they can ruin your life,” said Joseph Conlon, technical adviser for the American Mosquito Control Association.

Nationwide, mosquito-borne diseases have been on the rise, as dengue fever has re-emerged in Florida and warm, rainy weather patterns have caused influxes of mosquito populations in the Northeast and Midwest, Conlon said.

“As the world becomes smaller and people travel to exotic places for vacation, the risk for mosquito-borne diseases is increasing,” he said.

But there are preventive measures to avoid getting bitten and to deter mosquitoes from your yard and home.

“You just have to deal with them,” Donahue said with a laugh.

As temperatures get warmer, all the mosquitoes in standing water become active. They are worst at dawn and dusk, especially in areas with vegetation, she said.

When it comes to keeping mosquitoes out of your yard, eliminate all standing water, said Sherrie Juris of Southern Maine Atlantic Mosquito and Tick Control. “Empty out your gutters, your kids’ toys, jars, pots, tires, everything.”

Lubelczyk’s advice: Don’t stay inside.

“There are lots of ways to minimize the risk of getting bitten,” he said. “You can never say never with mosquitoes, but don’t not go out and enjoy Maine in the summer.”

Staff Writer Colleen Stewart can be contacted at 791-6355 or at:

[email protected]