Mosquito Control: Mosquitoes are coming, rain or no rain
Saturday, May 25, 2002
By JEFFREY STIVERS, Special to the Daily News
Dried-up, brown lawns, drooping flowers and shrubs, dirty cars, dust, and water restrictions are indicators of the drought that hit Southwest Florida. Hard to believe that mosquito season is fast approaching. The drought might have delayed their arrival date a little, but, with the recent rains, mosquitoes will be arriving in the Naples area in the near future. The Collier Mosquito Control District (CMCD) is preparing for the annual onslaught of mosquitoes and residents should also. How is it possible that mosquitoes, which need standing water to breed, could be a problem in the Naples area when there has been no rain? The simple answer is that rain in Naples proper is not necessary, because much of the mosquito problem is generated in the Everglades and Ten Thousand Island areas. These areas produce uncounted numbers of mosquitoes which hitch a ride on the nightly prevailing southeast winds and commute to Naples for a meal. Since the Everglades area generally receives rain earlier in the year than does Naples, mosquitoes without rain is a frequent occurrence here. High tides, whether in Naples or the Ten Thousand Islands, will also produce large numbers of mosquitoes without rains Whether mosquitoes originate in Naples or the Everglades is immaterial to the threat that they pose to residents. While the CMCD makes every effort to reduce mosquito numbers to tolerable levels, it is impossible to eliminate mosquitoes completely. As a result, residents need to take precautions to protect themselves if they will be outdoors and exposed to mosquitoes. There has always been the threat of St. Louis Encephalitis (SLE) transmission in the local area. This disease has historically been a threat late in the summer or in the fall. It is transmitted from birds (the normal hosts for the disease) to humans by Culex nigripalpus. This species of mosquito prefers aquatic habitats rich in decomposing organic material as sites for egg laying. The nastier the water, the better this species likes it. The newcomer on the block is West Nile virus (WNV). This disease made its debut in Florida last year, causing numerous human cases as well as hundreds of cases in horses
across the state. Little is known about the disease or which mosquitoes might transmit it here in Florida. Since the disease is very similar to SLE it is believed that Culex nigripalpus will also be the primary carrier of this disease from birds to humans. The Collier County Health Department and CMCD are actively monitoring for the presence of both the disease and the mosquitoes believed to transmit them. Residents can help monitor for WNV by reporting dead birds to the Health Department by calling Tom Walker at 403-2499. What can residents do to protect themselves from mosquito bites and the possibility of disease? Avoid outdoor activity at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active. If it is necessary to be outdoors, wear light colored long sleeved shirts and long pants. Repellents containing DEET should also be used in accordance with the label on the product. Horse owners should also consult with their veterinarian about having their horses vaccinated for WNV. For more information on SLE, WNV, and personal protection visit the CMCD web site at collier-mosquito.org.
Jeffrey C. Stivers, Ph.D. is director of research for the Collier Mosquito Control District. E-mail Jstivers@collier-mosquito.org; call 436-1000, visit www.collier-mosquito.org