Wakulla County Extension Director
It is an often made wish of summer that the cold weather of winter will kill all the mosquitoes, gnats and no-see-ums. This climactic fete would spare people, pets and livestock the irritation of encountering these low flying pests and their predatory behavior.
Unfortunately, the thermometer would have to drop to levels approaching the surface temperature of the planet Neptune to eliminate these winged annoyances. Such a weather event would have devastating effects on every Wakulla County family’s power bill, along with creating some other insurmountable problems.
The arrival of the Zika virus by way of mosquitoes has many looking for alternatives to the sub-zero solution. Even frigid Alaska has mosquitoes during spring and summer, so there is no realistic hope of freezing them to extinction.
As the screaming headlines and news reports indicate, Zika has the greatest potential impact on women in their child bearing years, and their unborn infants. This exotic virus is in the same genus as the dreaded West Nile, dengue and yellow fever virus.
As a recent arrival to this country, Zika is spread by two related exotic mosquitoes. The Yellow Fever Mosquito, Aedes aegypti, and the Asian Tiger Mosquito, Aedes albopictus, are the transmission vectors.
Both mosquitoes have been long documented in Wakulla County, but without the Zika virus to transmit. While this new issue is far beyond the ability of any one individual to control or halt, there are individual steps which will help minimize the potential for exposure to exotic diseases.
Check surroundings for standing water, especially in secluded spots or small quantities. The home landscape and patio garden can produce hundreds, if not thousands, of hungry mosquitoes during the summer if standing water is left for long.
Trays and dishes under flower pots commonly collect water which is usually left to evaporate or be absorbed by the plant over time. To mama mosquito this shallow and protected source is an ideal location to deposit eggs for the next generation of voracious airborne insects.
Plants with natural depressions or “cups” can accumulate enough irrigation and rain water to establish an effective mosquito nursery. Even though it may evaporate, these tiny pools will last long enough to hatch many mosquito larvae into potential disease vectors.
Back porch bromeliads can easily deliver this undesirable outcome. So too can mature live oak trees which commonly have hollow spaces between large branches.
Even a wheelbarrow left to the elements can serve as a portable pond to maternity minded mosquitoes. Dumping the water on a frequent basis is the easiest method, but there are also larvae-cides which are effective in diffi cult to dump reservoirs.
Protective clothing when outdoors is useful to reduce exposed skin which mosquitoes view as an excellent dining site. Heavier fabrics and loose fitting designs provide the best protection while maintaining maximum comfort for the wearer.
Minimizing exposure at dusk and dawn, when native mosquitoes are most active, will reduce the probability of serving as an unsuspecting blood meal for a swarm or lone hunter. Unfortunately, some of the exotic mosquitoes are prowling 24 hours a day and are pleased to attack at any opportunity.
As the weather warms, be ready for mosquito season. This past winter only whetted their appetite.