AFTER HEAVY RAINS, MOSQUITOES BECOME AN ISSUE
With the liquid contribution of sub-tropical storm Alberto rains has been frequent and copious in nature. There is plenty of water for north Florida’s lawns, gardens, ponds, pastures, swamps and the aquifer to create the perfect place to hatch mosquitoes.
Citizens who are dependent upon a residential well are breathing a collective sigh of relief as the water soaks into the soil. A major concern, and cost, of a dry year is the practices required to avoid running short of water.
Municipal water system managers across the state are pleased, too. They face the same challenges on a much expanded scale.
The bad news is water standing in ditches, pastures, swamps and any water-tight container exposed to the open environment is a probable breeding site for mosquitos.
Florida is home to about 80 to 85 mosquito species, many of which live in the panhandle. Of those 20 plus are exotic mosquitos which have been inadvertently imported, such as the Asian Tiger Mosquito.
Not All Mosquitoes Feed on Humans
Contrary to popular perception, not all of these dine on humans. Some target only birds, others only frogs, and still others will target any animal which can provide a blood meal.
The blood meal is sought only by the females as part of the reproductive process. The nutrients found in the blood of host are critical to producing viable mosquito eggs.
Both adult male and female mosquitos consume plant nectar as a source of high sugar energy during their lives. Most males live about a week and are easy to identify with a magnifying glass. They have distinctly bushy antennae on their heads.
While many of the mosquitos are considered pest, only about 20 are disease vectors or bridge vectors. A sudden increase in their population after a storm or flooding event will cause concerns with public health officials.
The bridge vectors, mosquitos in this case, do not directly infect humans or livestock with a pathogen. They prey on carriers, commonly birds, which act as the disease reservoir and then spread the infection within the carrier species.
When the disease afflicted carrier comes into contact with a mosquito which will take a blood meal from any source, then the disease may reach humans, livestock and even pets when the female mosquito seeks another blood meal to support the next batch of eggs.
Disease outbreaks can occur at any time, but typically come later in the mosquito season. The preceding cold season will always kill off some of the disease reservoir animals and initially thin the mosquito population.
As mosquito season progresses, the mosquitoes increase their numbers and improve their chances of contacting a diseased animal. Odds of a disease outbreak grow with each blood meal the mosquito consumes.
Mosquito mitigation methods are simple. Remove standing water from around homes, barns, and other mosquito-prone areas.
Use repellants per label directions and wear protective clothing. Avoid exposure to mosquitos during dusk and dawn when they are most likely feeding. Take extra precautions when working or playing in natural areas with ponds, swamps and marshes.
While mosquitos can be a major impediment to enjoying summer in Florida, they fit in the environmental balance. Some fish fingerling and dragonflies are dependent upon mosquito larva as a source of food.
Purple martins, bats and toads use adult mosquitos as a major dietary staple. Take prudent precautions, and let the aforementioned species control the mosquitos without giving these airborne insects supplemental nutrition.
Learn more about managing north Florida’s mosquito population, contact the local UF/IFAS County Extension Office. Click here for contact information.