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 and 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. Frogs, native fish species and dragonfly nymph feed on larvae.
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, bromeliad, pitcher plants and water lettuce could support egg, larvae and pupa stage. Clear out thick brush to increase air-flow around the house.
Empty and scrub outdoor pet bowls and wading pools 2-3 times per week 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 (ret.), UF/IFAS Extension Levy County
Household chemicals called dunks contain bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti). Bti specifically targets larvae and 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. 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 .
BVA oil controls 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. Chikungunya, dengue and West Nile fever are also mosquito transmitted viruses.
“ Mosquito-borne viruses rarely cause illness in dogs and cats, but mosquitoes can transmit heartworms to dogs and cats, which can cause a fatal disease. It is recommended for dogs and outside cats to be on a heartworm preventative that can be given on its own or in a flea, tick, and heartworm combo prevention medication. “ Eva Buckner, Ph.D., Assistant Professor & State Extension Specialist, UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory
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.
Web links to EDIS mosquito publications: ENY-719/IN535: Hurricanes and Mosquitoes, ENY-671/IN419: Mosquito Repellents and ENY-753/IN1045: Mosquitoes and their Control: Integrated Pest Management for Mosquito Reduction around Homes and Neighborhoods. (IFAS Extension Bookstore).
An organ at the wing base strums against the wings creating the signature buzzing. The buzz is a mosquito mating call and prompts me to stow garden tools and head inside. Until next time – Spread Joy!