Dr. Barry Campbell, department chair of Biological and Physical Sciences at Delta State University, continues to use his expertise of the little buggers to help control the mosquito population in Cleveland.
Campbell and his students will take part in what he calls "Community Based Mosquito Control" this summer and fall to assist Cleveland's contracted abatement company, Advanced Mosquito Control, Inc.
Students will help in a number of ways — from trapping mosquitoes to determine problem species in town, to partnering with local youth and church groups to clean up citizen's yards and even providing residents with the basics of mosquito biology.
And the students will be led by a man with an abundance of mosquito knowledge.
Campbell, a Tennessee native, came to DSU in 1999 but first got heavily involved with the pesky insects by assisting mosquito control in the 1980s in New Orleans.
He obtained his master's and doctoral degrees from the highly regarded Tulane University parasitology program, but long before then he knew he wanted to focus on parasitic animals.
"I was intrigued early on and was sure that I would study things that live at the expense of over living things," Campbell said.
He remembers seeing a tapeworm crawl out of his dog at the age of 12 and being hooked on the parasitic concept ever since.
His continued passion for the subject matter would eventually lead him to university positions in Wisconsin and the Caribbean, and he also served time with the National Wildlife Research Center, where he focused on mosquito born diseases.
"I figured out with my time at the research center that if I have to know about the diseases, I should know about the mosquitoes too," he said.
From then on he has continued to experiment, learn and explore.
Campbell collects, raises and samples local populations to have a greater understanding of mosquito behavior in Cleveland and the Delta.
He also spends substantial time taking macro photographs of the species up close and shooting videos of them at their different biological stages, claiming that documenting their characteristics will help educate people about the problem.
His knowledge has come in handy, as Mississippi and the South have witnessed a growing problem of West Nile Virus, which happens when a mosquito bites an infected bird or animal and gets the virus while feeding on the animal's blood.
The infected mosquito can then transmit the virus to another bird, human or animal when it feeds again.
"We've learned that a majority of the mosquitoes that have West Nile Virus are made here in town in small areas of water," said Campbell. "They have about a one-mile flight range, and chances are if you've been bitten by a West Nile mosquito it happened right around your house."
So part of the solution is to make a communal effort to "mosquito proof" property.
"Do something to clean up around your house," he said. "Don't have standing water, old tires, potted plants or trash from yard work.
"And don't use incandescent low-wattage bulbs for your outdoor lighting," contended Campbell, asserting that mosquitoes are attracted to incandescent lights below 60 watts."
Campbell and his students will continue to spread awareness on simple control techniques and provide a helping hand to the city's abatement program.
They will also promote green mosquito control concepts, such as building bat boxes and utilizing larva-eating fish that can be transmitted between different ditches and canals.
"Also, don't kill dragonflies," he said. "They eat a ton of mosquitoes locally."
Bill Alexander, manager of Advanced Mosquito Control, is thrilled to have Campbell lend his expert support.
"We've made what I think is a major acquisition for our program by having Dr. Campbell work with us this year," said Alexander. "He knows more about mosquitoes than anyone I've ever known.
"He can tell what species a mosquito is if he sees it flying in a mile away. He's that knowledgeable."
For more information on WNV and other mosquito-borne illnesses, a checklist to reduce the mosquito population in and around homes, and recommended mosquito repellents, visit the MSDH website at www.HealthyMS.com/westnile or call the WNV toll-free hotline from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 1-877-WST-NILE (1-877-978-6453).