What’s Buzzing Me, Mosquito Be Gone!
From the coast to sandhills, pastures to homestead, dozens of mosquito species are found around Florida homes and neighborhoods. They ease through life in one of four forms – egg, larvae, pupa or adult. As adults, some vector disease pathogen to humans, companion animals and livestock. Some are just pests attracted to standing water, warm temperature, damp, humid shady areas and breath (carbon dioxide). Would we be wise to take precautions?
Species requiring permanent moisture lay eggs directly on water surface. Eggs are placed individually or in groups, called raft. Florida’s St. Louis encephalitis mosquito prefers to lay rafts of 90 to 210 eggs.
Floodwater type mosquitoes lay eggs in moist substrate such as leaf litter, pastures and fields. They also lay eggs at high tide or where flooding occurred. Floodwater eggs require a drying out period to become viable. Floodwater eggs will hatch the next time they are covered with water. Both floodwater and permanent water larvae live in water.
Also called ‘wrigglers’ or ‘wigglers,’ because of the s-shaped swimming motion, larvae are the easiest to control. The greatest impacts on mosquito populations occur at this life stage. They are susceptible to cultural and chemical controls. In addition, frogs, native fish species and dragonfly nymph feed on larvae.
“The larvae stage can last from several days to several months depending on the water temperature and mosquito species.” UF/IFAS, SP498, 2015
Life gets interesting at the pupa stage. Pupa lack functioning mouth parts. By design, pupa do not eat or poop. They survive on stored energy reserve. Adults emerge, leaving pupal skin behind. Once airborne, male and female mosquito feed on nectar, plant fluids and sugar feeding insects. It’s the female that feeds on bloodmeal, for egg development. Her tube-like mouthpart, the proboscis, pierces host skin and extracts blood. In addition, female can ‘bite’ more than once. On average, females live three to six weeks, but can live up to five months. The male is essential for reproduction.
No Water, No Larvae.
Eliminate breeding sites by removing water sources around the home. The garden enthusiast will routinely drain saucers under potted plants. Cupped plants such as pitcher plants and water lettuce could support egg, larvae and pupa stage. Clear out thick brush to increase air-flow around the house.
Flush water from outdoor pet bowls and scrub wading pools every 3-4 days during summer. Dump bird bath water once a week. Keep floating debris out of ponds and vegetation short surrounding ponds. Maintain free-flowing ditches and culverts.
“Government has utilized modern pesticides, after weighing cost and benefit in the interest of public safety and human health.” D.A. Drew, Commercial Agriculture Agent, Levy County Extension
Household chemicals called dunks contain bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti). Bti specifically targets larvae. When placed in the water garden, this may be one method of larvae control. Granules are available as are household premises sprays.
Levy County Mosquito Control District works to reduce adult mosquito populations with aerosol chemicals. Spraying generally occurs when mosquitoes are most active, dawn and dusk. PERMXUL 4-4 sticks to their wings and prevents flying. Bee hives should be registered with Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). Contact Levy County Mosquito control 352-486-5127 to be placed on the no-spray list or online .
If sampling reveals larvae presence, BVA oil is applied to control larvae and pupa.
Around the Home.
Keep flying adults out of the home. Repair cracks, open vents and screens on windows and doors. Protect skin with long sleeve shirt and pants. Registered repellents are approved for human use. Follow label instructions.
Florida Department of Health (DOH) illustrates how Eastern equine encephalitis (EEEV) disease is mosquito borne. In addition, Chikungunya, dengue and West Nile fever are mosquito transmitted viruses.
Additional mosquito resources.
We should not depend on frogs, bats and birds to keep us free of bites. Get the facts at UF’s Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS). University of Florida’s Medical
Entomology Laboratory (FMEL), is a research institution devoted to the understanding and control of medically important and biting insects. A color, 3”x4” mosquito ID deck is available at the IFAS bookstore. Pick up the mosquito control publication at Levy County Extension, 625 North Hathaway (27A), Bronson.
An organ at the wing base strums against the wings, creating that signature buzzing. In addition to being a mosquito mating call, the buzz is my alarm to put away garden tools and head inside. Be vigilant and Happy Gardening!