Roxanne Connelly: A mosquito maternity ward
Published: Friday, June 21, 2013 at 3:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 21, 2013 at 3:49 p.m.
Pardon me for asking, but are you running a mosquito maternity ward on your property?
You'll probably shudder and say, “Of course not!”
But the truth is that many of you are helping these blood-sucking pests multiply.
You're doing it, perhaps unknowingly, by maintaining sources of standing water at your home, business or undeveloped land.
I know there was some over-the-top news coverage on the “gallinipper” mosquito recently. That particular species isn't a human health concern. But I'm here to tell you that Florida's overall mosquito problem is real, and residents need to play a role in addressing it.
Did you know that 2012 was the second-worst year for human cases of West Nile virus disease in the United States since it was first documented in this country? There were 5,674 cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 73 of them from Florida.
Many common mosquito species lay their eggs just above the water line on the inside surfaces of items that hold water, such as flower pots, metal cans, tree hollows and old tires. It only takes a few tablespoons of water and – in the hot Florida summers – about one week of time for those eggs to develop into adult mosquitoes ready to fan out across the neighborhood and start the cycle again.
Florida's dozen or so container-inhabiting mosquitoes include disease-carrying species – the Asian tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus, yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti, and the night-biting Culex nigripalpus, which is arguably the most serious mosquito health threat in Florida, carrying the viruses that cause West Nile fever and encephalitis, eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis and dog heartworm.
You can read more about container-inhabiting mosquitoes in this document I wrote along with colleagues from the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences -- http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/in851.
Now that you understand the problem, here's a solution:
June 23-29 is National Mosquito Control Awareness Week, and as president of the American Mosquito Control Association, I'm asking every Florida resident to help control mosquito populations by taking a stand against standing water.
You can start this week, and it's important to keep up the effort until hurricane season ends, Dec. 1.
There are just three steps to follow:
* Know your property – Go outside after a rain storm and identify the places where standing water collects.
* Eliminate water-collection sources when possible – Small items such as unused flower pots and old pet food bowls, can be discarded or stored in a dry place. Large items such as children's outdoor play structures can sometimes be modified by drilling or punching holes to let water drain out.
* Empty water once a week – For items meant to hold water, such as birdbaths and wading pools, empty and replace the water every seven days to reduce the odds of mosquitoes breeding successfully there.
For more information on potential sources of standing water on your property, see this column in the BugWeek@UF website – http://bugs.ufl.edu/?p=743.
Do it for yourself, do it for your family, do it for your neighborhood – take a stand against standing water and help reduce Florida's mosquito populations.
Roxanne Connelly is a professor at UF's Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach.