In Karen Russell’s gonzo 2012 Pulitzer-finalist novel Swamplandia!, a Florida man is hoisted skyward in the talons of coffin-sized birds. In real life, giant mosquitoes that can apparently feel like a (small) bird when they land on you have already invaded the Sunshine State to torment locals and tourists alike, reports Orlando-based WKMG.
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According to the TV station, the quarter-sized insects were first spotted in Seminole County late last week. The aggressive bloodsuckers “can bite right through your clothing and give you a good pinch, more painful than an ordinary mosquito bite,” University of Florida natural-resources agent Ken Gioeli told West Palm Beach–based WPTV back in March.
University of Florida entomologists warned in March that Psorophora ciliata — or gallinippers as they’re sometimes called — might appear this summer, weighing up to 20 times the size of a typical mosquito and even more aggressive. The catalyst? Heavy rains from Tropical Storms Debby and Andrea, which probably hatched the monster mosquito eggs that can lay dormant for years. As the university quipped in March: “If mosquitos were motorcycles, this species would be a Harley Davidson — big, bold, American-made and likely to be abundant in Florida this summer.”
What does it feel like when a mosquito the size of a quarter chomps on your arm, leg or neck? Doug Carlson, mosquito-control director for Indian River County in Florida, who’s actually been bitten by the insects, said it was only a little more painful than a regular mosquito bite. Still, he said, “The gallinippers are so big they’re certainly very noticeable. It can feel like a small bird has landed on you.”
Fortunately you shouldn’t need whatever they sell to fend off attacks from small birds: instead, the usual things apply, like bug spray containing DEET, covering up, or just staying inside after sunset. The good news: according to University of Florida entomologist Phil Kaufman, the gallinippers don’t carry viruses harmful to humans.
Poor Florida can’t catch a break. In April, rat-sized house-eating snails emerged in the state to chow on stucco domiciles and ooze slime trails on walls and sidewalks everywhere.
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