Get that mosquito OFF me!


Why was the mosquito sad on Christmas? It was a bah hum bug.

Might as well start off a blog about the “deadliest animal on Earth” with a joke, right? Around since the Triassic period (400 million years ago), mosquitoes have one mission in life -- find a blood host, take a bite, make more mosquitoes, all in their eight to 10-day lifecycle. That pretty much makes you and me a target and while bug sprays and fogging and candles all play a role in protecting yourself, certainly avoiding them all together is safest.

So wouldn’t it be nice to have a mosquito forecast when they are going to be the worst in your neighborhood? OFF!CAST to the rescue! OFF mosquito repellent has been around for decades and their new mosquito forecast website predicts just how infested your neighborhood will be over the next week! Here’s what the landing page looks like:

OFF!CAST Website page

I entered the downtown 77002 zip code and came up with:


Here’s what the different levels mean:

  • Low/Green. You’re safe to go outside and enjoy the outdoors. Is it possible there might be a mosquito lurking about? Sure, but the odds are low and they’re probably not very active.
  • Medium/Yellow. You don’t have to be super concerned -- yet. But the conditions are right for some mosquitoes to come out. If you are the cautious-type, then using some mosquito protection is a good idea.
  • High/Orange. The mosquitoes are out and you will want to protect yourself. The weather is warm and wet enough for mosquitoes to become active and look for a yummy meal. Don’t be that meal -- protect yourself.
  • Very High/Red. Time to be even more careful because the prime conditions for mosquitoes have been in-place for several days – likely resulting in even more mosquito activity. Protect yourself before you go outside, and bring protection with you just in case you need to re-apply.
  • Severe/Dark Red. Conditions have been perfect for (at least) the previous 14 days for mosquitoes to become active and breed, which means there are likely to be more of them. Be sure to protect yourself before you leave the house and remember to re-apply protection the longer you are outside; ideally every couple of hours.

A full zip code may seem like a wide area, but they say your zip will give you a solid forecast: just use common sense. If you happen to be standing near a swamp, well, yes, the mosquitoes will be worse. And then there is the age-old question of whether such a forecast is accurate. Accordingly “The model combines three inputs - knowledge of a mosquito’s lifecycle, detailed climate data inputs, and mosquito population counts from over 5,000 locations provided by VectorBase. To determine accuracy, our team spent six years checking the model’s results against live populations, generating 33 million data points. The results confirm model predictions match the reality on the ground.”

I also sent an email asking if COLD weather kills mosquitoes as we head into our warmer months. “Some mosquitoes that are overwintering might be killed off by colder-than-normal temperatures, but enough of them will be able to either tolerate the cold or stay protected (e.g. inside of containers, under houses, in storm drains) so that they’ll survive through to spring,” said Tom Mascari, an entomologist with SC Johnson, creators of the OFF!Cast Mosquito Forecast. “A warm spring with plenty of rain will be enough for mosquitoes to rebound, and this is likely to influence the numbers of mosquitoes we see more than the winter temperatures.”

Weather, always, plays a role -- not too hot, not too cold, enough humidity and rain to ramp up the population. Avoid evening hours outside, by the way. Go ahead and take a look at the OFF!CAST for yourself. Right now, this website is for the lower 48. Can an app be far behind?

Thanks to the OFF!CAST page for all the info. And the bad joke.


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About the Authors:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.