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Exclusive: Upper West Side Mosquito Mystery

Families Terrorized By Swarms Of Underground Insects That Invade Homes
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(credit: CBS 2)

(credit: CBS 2)

davecarlin Dave Carlin
Dave Carlin serves as a reporter for CBS 2 News and covers breaking...
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NYC Is A Strange Place

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — An insect invasion is terrorizing New York City homeowners, making life miserable, even dangerous, for many families. Parents have been forced to take extreme measures to protect their children and their homes.

CBS 2’s Dave Carlin investigates the growing Upper West Side mosquito mystery.

These rare mosquitoes are extra blood-thirsty and active year-round. Carlin saw some of them in a lab after they were collected in the unlikeliest of places, Bernard Lagan’s home on West 84th Street.

“They trapped 150 mosquitoes in the basement in a 24-hour period coming from underground and into the basement and up in to the house through the air vents and it’s the same story as the other brownstones on this block,” Lagan told Carlin.

UPDATE: Rare Breed Only Feeds In Darkness

It’s an invasion that has almost every resident of 84th Street between Riverside and West End Avenue slapping, scratching and suffering.

“They’re hungry. They’re hungry,” said resident Susan Nicholson.

“Three on this ear; one on his cheek; one on his neck,” another woman said, illustrating the bites on one of her children. “And there are some on his arms going up his arm.”

Frustrated neighbors said after numerous complaints to the city and no concrete action, they feel abandoned. So like busy bees, they’re taking matters in to their own hands: covering cracks, vents and drains, both inside and out.

“Every vent is covered with mesh. It helps. It cuts it by 50 percent,” resident Pauline Galiana said.

In bedrooms on the block you see mosquito netting over the beds. Residents told Carlin it is the only way to get an uninterrupted pain-free night of sleep.

“This mosquito is well known for being in sewers in New York,” said Dina Fonseca, a professor at the Rutgers Center for Vector Biology.

Fonseca said the blood suckers’ scientific name is Culex Pipiens Molestus and that they thrive year-round in sewers and feast on humans at night.

“The best way to address that is to close all connections to the sewer and do aggressive mosquito control in the sewers, but that’s a tall order in these old cities like New York,” Fonseca said.

“Eliminating them, we are told by the Health Department, is going to require ripping up the road, treating it and putting the road back down,” Lagan said.

But Lagan said he is tired of waiting, and so are his kids, 7-year-old Rosie and 9-year-old Gracie.

“All on the walls there are mosquitoes and blood,” Gracie said.

“I just get bitten really all over me,” Rosie added.

Carlin contacted the Health Department to ask when something will be done. He has not heard back.

“It really is unacceptable for a city to ignore this kind of plague,” Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal said the Department of Transportation must provide some relief.

“I just saw coming up from these holes a whole bevy of mosquitoes. If the city were to patch up the holes in the street it would take care of at least some of the mosquitoes,” Rosenthal said.

Residents vow to bug every city agency they can think of to make all these pests buzz off for good.

Residents said the problem started last summer and got progressively worse. They said, initially, they were told because getting rid of the mosquitoes was not a top priority because they tested negative for West Nile Virus.

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