While some reports have predicted a particularly bad mosquito season due to a warmer winter and spring, Ohio experts say summer weather will be the true determining factor.
Warmer weather in the spring means "people and mosquitoes have come into contact earlier than they normally might be," said Richard Gary, state public health entomologist with the Ohio Department of Health.
But there's not a strong link between the earlier warm weather and the prevalence of the insects and the diseases they might carry, he said.
In fact, a warmer winter might do mosquitoes more harm than good, said David Denlinger, professor of entomology and evolution, ecology and organismal biology at The Ohio State University.
"Mild winters are not necessarily better for insects because they burn through their energy reserves a little faster," he said, noting their metabolism is related to the temperature and goes slower in colder conditions.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, only six of the 63 mosquito species in Ohio actually carry diseases like the West Nile Virus or St. Louis, La Crosse or eastern equine encephalitis, which can affect the brain and nervous system. And Denlinger said those mosquitoes won't come out in full force until later in the summer.
Eliminate standing water around your home, by unclogging roof gutters, emptying children's wading pools at least once a week, changing water in birdbaths at least weekly, getting rid of old tires and emptying unused containers or storing them upside down.
Methods including bug zappers, Citronella-scented candles and attracting birds and other animals that feed on mosquitoes are popular but unproven.
Follow the directions on repellent products containing DEET, picaridin and other materials and wash skin to which they were applied when you go inside.
Clothing to help protect against mosquitoes includes long-sleeved shirts, socks, long pants, light-colored clothing and a full-brimmed hat or baseball cap with a foldout flap to protect the back of the neck.
Mosquito nets can be used to cover one's head and face or an infant seat or stroller.
"The mosquito that carries (West Nile) is around now, but they're not in huge numbers," he said.
Certain weather conditions are better for different types of mosquitoes, Gary said. For example, while long dry periods may trouble some species, the ones that tend to carry West Nile actually prefer hot weather or even drought periods.
"They like to breed in particularly stagnant and organically polluted water" that would be standing for longer periods of time, Gary said.
Last year was a hot summer, resulting in 21 cases of West Nile being reported in the state, including one fatality in Summit County, Gary said. That was up from five cases in 2010 and just two in 2009, he said.
"If you have a hot period ... it's going to speed up the development of the mosquitoes and more mosquitoes will feed on birds" which can carry West Nile, Gary said.
"Treehole" mosquitoes tend to be the carriers of La Crosse encephalitis, the other most common mosquito-borne disease in Ohio, Gary said. Those insects breed in openings where water collects on trees or in man-made containers and thrive in periods of periodic rain.
There were 50 cases of La Crosse encephalitis in Ohio in 2011, with no fatalities. One case was reported in Washington County and another one was found in Morgan County.
Eastern equine encephalitis is less common in Ohio, only having been detected in horses so far, Gary said. Mosquitoes that carry it do best in particularly wet summers.
Starting on Wednesday, June 13, the Ohio Department of Health will begin testing mosquitoes submitted by local health departments to monitor the status of mosquito-borne diseases. Local departments will be notified of any positive results so they can increase mosquito control measures or issue public health warnings, Gary said.
According to ODH, most people infected with a mosquito-borne virus will show no symptoms and others will develop mild fever, headaches or muscle aches that last as long as a week. A small number will develop more serious illness that could result in death. The most likely individuals to develop severe illness are people older than 50 or younger than 16.
Although the diseases are still tracked, area residents on Wednesday said their mosquito-related worries were less about the illnesses and more about avoiding the itching that follows a bite.
"We usually use like the kid friendly bug spray, if we know we're going to be out late in the evening or near water," said Williamstown resident Marissa Garst, 34. "The kids (have) got to go out and play. They have to be able to enjoy the outside in the summer."
Marietta resident David Torbett, 47, said he and his family don't like using insect repellent unless they really need to, but they do take precautions if they're going to be out during the evening, when mosquitoes are generally more active.
"We put out some Citronella candles. We like to eat outside," he said.
To cut down on mosquitoes and risk of exposure to them, experts recommend eliminating standing water, where mosquitoes tend to lay eggs; wearing light-colored clothing; staying indoors at dawn and dusk; and wearing long sleeves when outside during those times. It is also recommended that people use mosquito repellent containing an active ingredient such as DEET or picaridin, although ODH warns not to use products with more than a 10 percent concentration of DEET on children.