This photo from the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences shows the size difference between the gallinipper mosquito and a more typical species.
(Florida Today) -- Better run and hide, the "giant" mosquito invasion is here!
Anyway, that's what some national media outlets are more or less urging. Then again, maybe they are just unfamiliar with the generally robust size of creepy crawly things in the Sunshine State.
Since March, Psorophora ciliata (Fabricius) - a.k.a. feather-legged gallinipper - has drawn countless exclamation-point headlines hyping "huge" mosquitoes invading Florida.
CNN's Headline News went with "Skeeter-geddon. Giant mosquitoes coming to Florida!" New York Daily News heralded the "Attack of the giant mosquitoes! Florida warning insects the size of quarters are on the way this summer."
Other media referenced "mega mosquito," "monster mosquitoes," or "ferocious," "super-sized" mosquitoes.
But insect experts say they're flabbergasted at how a seldom-seen mosquito that's always been here is drawing so much buzz. Gallinippers are thought to make up less than 2 percent of the mosquito population and they don't spread any of the dreaded mosquito-borne illnesses such as West Nile virus. Many who work in the mosquito-control trenches feel its bite is actually milder than its smaller, more pestiferous peers - certainly no match for the dreaded salt marsh mosquito.
All the buzz has some wondering why media outlets bit on the giant mosquito story.
"This story has totally amazed me right from the start," said Jonathan Day, an entomologist at University of Florida's Medical Entomology Lab in Vero Beach.
He's got a hunch how the feather-legged gallinipper story grew legs.
It all began in when Ephraim Ragasa, a student at University of Florida, had the idea for a course assignment to do a writeup about the beefy insect. Then in March, the writeup, coauthored by his professor, Phillip Kaufman, became a feature for UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. IFAS commonly does "Featured Creatures" articles to raise public awareness about various pests and other topics.
"I was surprised the first time, not the second time," Kaufman, an associate professor of entomology at UF, said of the media hype surrounding the "giant" gallinipper.
"There are many other mosquitoes that are much more important than this one," Kaufman added.
Make no mistake, Psorophora ciliata is a big fella, four to five times the size of its skeeter peers.
Some media reported it as much as 20 times bigger.
Other reports said the mosquito is so large that it feels like a small bird when it lands on you "and that its bite is akin to being stabbed with a kitchen knife," lamented the spring edition of "Buzz Words," a UF newsletter, which critiqued the recent media coverage.
Some claimed last year'sTropical Storm Debby whisked the mosquitoes into Florida or that the Debby's deluges enabled the mosquito to invade. But entomologists say the mosquito is native to Florida.
According to the IFAS writeup, the word gallinipper originated as a vernacular term in the southeastern United States referring to "a large mosquito or other insect that has a painful bite or sting." It's appeared in folk tales, traditional minstrel songs and a blues song referencing a large mosquito with a "fearsome bite."
But mosquito control workers aren't impressed.
"Most people in my field consider their bite somewhat softer," said Chris Richmond, operations manager for Brevard County Mosquito Control. "They don't have a lot going for them when they're out for a blood meal. Because of their size, they're easily detected."
They mostly target cattle, not humans, entomologists say, and prefer pasture areas.
Brevard mosquito control officials expect a mosquito explosion Wednesday or Thursday, triggered by recent rains, but nothing out of the ordinary from the "giant" gallinipper.
"We've seen the normal amount this year," Richmond said. "We don't anticipate them being any worse this year."
But as national media converged on the George Zimmerman trial in Sanford, "giant mosquito" headlines began to pop up again, this time from, where else - Seminole County.
Myths of a gallinipper invasion aside, the repellant and pesticide solutions are the same as for smaller mosquitoes. And the bigger skeeters come, the harder they fall.
"They'll die the way the others do," Kaufman assured.