Soaked and stung: Mosquitoes and black beetles in Tucson

monsoon-story

University of Arizona Insect Collection Manager Gene Hall examines a specimen in his UA lab. (Courtesy of Gene Hall)

Students itched, scratched, cried and hopscotched around campus in soaked shoes as the semester started. 

The first week of school was marked with monsoons and mosquito bites for many students and opportunities for a little water mischief. 

Members of the Aggie House, a student-run residence on North Euclid Avenue, sat on the curb Tuesday, Aug. 23, while trucks drove down Euclid drenching them with street water. A video of five residents getting splashed was posted to Barstool Arizona’s Instagram page. 


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Aggie House President Aidan Irwin explained that for the Arizona natives in the video, rain is “kinda magical” and since they are so used to the heat and sun, they wanted to have some good ol’ fashioned rainy day fun. 

While the rain is all fun and games, the bugs that have come as a result of this monsoon season have been a menace to students going about their day. 

“The mosquitoes this year have been really bad,” Irwin said, “and there has been a good amount of those black beetles around, too.”

Mosquitos and those “black beetles,” also known as pinacate beetles, are coming out now due to the increased moisture from the monsoons, but they are not harmful to people.

“Insects, like all other desert organisms, take advantage of the abundant moisture, especially following the hot and dry months preceding monsoon rains,” explained Gene Hall, the University of Arizona Insect Collection manager.  

“Arizona is a biodiversity hotspot for insects. … Just like bird watching, people travel from around the world to visit Arizona during monsoon season, to see the diversity of insects from the low deserts to the high mountains,” Hall said.

Monsoon season is also the time for most insects to mate and produce young, Hall explained.

Plant growth due to the rain has also brought out the bugs.

“Insects that feed on plants are thriving,” said Hall, “And the insects that feed on the insects that feed on the plants are also taking advantage of the abundance of food sources.”

Joshua Tennenbaum, an expert at Arizona Pest Control, has a few tips for tackling the bugs this time of year. 

  • Avoid standing water. The puddles of water you see will dry up pretty quickly because of the heat, but mosquitos bloom in standing water. 
  • Don’t be afraid to use mosquito repellent. Your classic Off will work, especially at night. This is when they will be most active as it starts to cool down. Even if you’re wearing pants, they like to come for your ankles so be sure to give yourself some coverage there. 
  • Don’t worry too much about the black beetles. Arizonans don’t spray for these kinds of bugs because of the heat. Just leave them be. They’ll be gone before you know. 

*El Inde Arizona is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.  


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