UPPER KEYS -- Rain falls almost daily on the Upper Keys at this time of year. But for much of last week, it would have been difficult to blame someone for thinking that mosquitoes were dropping from the sky as well.
Fortunately, this year's first large scale invasion of the nasty bloodsuckers wasn't a biblical plague. Instead, it was a result of the tropical depression that later became Hurricane Arthur.
As Arthur began to form to the east of South Florida on June 30, its counterclockwise circulation brought northwesterly breezes from the Everglades, said National Weather Service Senior Forecaster Chip Kasper.
With those breezes came one of the Glades' most reviled inhabitants, the lowly mosquito.
"It's just the season, man," Emilio Posada, Upper Keys administrator for the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, said last Thursday. "This is the first battle. I'm sure we'll have more of them."
For Upper Keys residents and visitors alike, that first battle brought plenty of aggravation. From Tuesday, July 1, through Thursday, July 3, Posada's office averaged approximately 100 calls per day, a nearly tenfold increase from what it had been receiving during the relatively tame month of June.
Carol Shipley, owner of Island Bay Resort in Tavernier, said the insects kept most of her guests inside.
"We'd go out and we'd get attacked," she said. "It was just brutal."
Even a steady supply of free bug spray didn't do the trick.
"The guests were pretty good-natured about it," Shipley said. "But they'd report on their bites. They'd be like, 'I've got 25 bites.'"
To counter the skeeters, the mosquito district did a blanket aerial spray of the Keys on July 1, Posada said. He said the plane was to fly last Saturday as well.
In addition, the district sent out its full fleet of five Upper Keys trucks from July 1 through July 3. The trucks were scheduled to take the Fourth of July off before being dispersed again Saturday and Sunday evenings, Posada said.
By then Mother Nature was also expected to help. A more benign southwest wind began blowing in from the Florida Straits during the latter half of last week, Kasper said.