For people worried about the high heating bills that come with bitter cold temperatures, and for those who hate driving in snow, we've been blessed with some great winter weather.

There could be somewhat of a flip side.

Because of the gentle conditions, there could be more bugs than usual this coming summer, especially mosquitoes.

With mosquitoes comes the threat of disease, especially West Nile Virus.

The Illinois Department of Health writes on its Web site:

"What's the most dangerous creature on earth? Without question the answer is: the mosquito.

"Mosquitoes and the diseases they spread have been responsible for killing more people than all the wars in history. Even today, mosquitoes transmitting malaria kill 2 million to 3 million people and infect another 200 million or more every year.

"Tens of millions more are killed and debilitated by a host of other mosquito-borne diseases, including filariasis, yellow fever, dengue and encephalitis."

All of us have gotten what were harmless mosquito bites, but the Pa. Department of Health states:

"In 2000, West Nile virus appeared for the first time in Pennsylvania in birds, mosquitoes and a horse."

Last year, there were five cases of West Nile Virus detected in humans in Pennsylvania.

It's not a lot, but still people should take precautions now against mosquito infestation.

One of the most common preventive measures to take is to get ride of old tires that might be on your property. The tires generally fill with water and attract mosquitoes.

In general, piles of wood, rubbish, and stagnant water sources should be dealt with now before mosquito season begins.

Some other precautions you can take:

Ÿ Check your screens and repair holes. This will not only keep mosquitoes out, but stink bugs, bees, and other flying pests.

Ÿ Go to your local hardware store and purchase bug spray to put around your home. Such bug spray is effective for months and does work. Or, have a professional exterminator come and do the work for you.

It could be a buggy year.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com [1]