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We Needed the Rain, but not the Mosquitoes

The good news is the rains have come. There is plenty of water for Wakulla County’s lawns, gardens, ponds, swamps and the aquifer.

Citizens who are dependent upon a residential well are breathing a collective sigh of relief as the water soaks into the soil. The major concern of a dry year is the practices required to avoid running short of water.

Municipal water system managers are pleased, too. They face the same challenges, but on a much larger scale.

The bad news is water standing in ditches, pastures, swamps and any water-tight container exposed to the open environment is a likely breeding site for mosquitos.

Florida is home to about 80 native mosquitos, many of which live in Wakulla County. Additionally, there are some exotic mosquitos which have been inadvertently imported, such as the Asian Tiger Mosquito.

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 concern with public health officials.

Bridge vectors do not directly infect humans or livestock with a pathogen. They do prey on carriers, such as birds, which act as the disease reservoir and spread the infection within the carrier species.

When the disease-ridden carrier contacts 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 typically come later in the mosquito season. The preceding cold season will always kill off some of the disease reservoir animals and thin the mosquito population.

As mosquito season progresses, the mosquitos increase their numbers and improve their chances of contacting a diseased animal. The 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 natural areas with ponds, swamps and marshes.

While mosquitos can be a major impediment to enjoying summer in Wakulla County, 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.

To learn more about living with mosquitos in Wakulla County, contact your UF/IFAS Wakulla Extension Office at 850-926-3931 or http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/wakullaco/

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