The recent rains are a welcomed relief to quench the severe drought. It will take considerably more rain to get us back to normal levels, but at least this is a good start for the rainy season. Normally, this consistent rainfall does not begin until late June, so we should consider ourselves lucky. Except for one thing — an early start to the rainy season translates into an early start to mosquito season.
With over 15 inches of rain in eastern parts of Pasco and well over 5 inches on the west side recorded during May, rainfall is accumulating in ditches, pastures and low lying areas throughout the area. Rainfall patterns vary greatly over our region, so we use a series of rain gauges in 40 different locations throughout Pasco County to determine where our inspectors should focus their attention to find and control the larvae. The eggs of certain mosquito species can lie dormant for months, so with the return of heavy rains, the eggs can hatch virtually all at once, creating a mosquito explosion.
Mosquito season has swung into high gear and Pasco County Mosquito District personnel have been busy battling these hungry pests. During daytime hours you will likely see our staff inspecting and treating roadside ditches and flooded fields. You might also see our orange helicopters treating the mosquito larvae that are developing in the shallow bodies of water throughout the county. Another focus of the field inspectors is to help our residents locate and identify containers on their property that hold water that could potentially breed mosquitoes, such as abandoned boats, buckets, tires, cups, etc. The type of mosquitoes that develop in these containers won't fly far, but far enough to bother both you and your neighbors. We encourage you to take a good look around your property and remove anything that could potentially hold water, since it will very likely produce mosquitoes if left in place.
Once mosquitoes emerge from the aquatic larval stages, they will soon be looking for their first blood meal. The district monitors the adult mosquitoes using specialized traps in the 40 locations throughout Pasco County. These collections are identified to species and the counts are provided to staff to make decisions on where to dispatch the night fogging trucks or airplanes to control the adult stage of the mosquito.
Besides being a major nuisance, mosquitoes are capable of transmitting several diseases. The district currently tests for Eastern equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis and West Nile Virus. Every week during the mosquito season our staff draws blood from sentinel chickens located in cages distributed throughout the county and delivers the blood to the Department of Health's Tampa lab for analysis. If a virus is detected, that area of the county is thoroughly inspected to find and eliminate mosquito breeding sources and any larval or adult mosquitoes which may be present.
And don't forget your pets. Dog heartworm, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, is very common in our area, so preventative medication for your dog is highly recommended. Also, the Florida Department of Agriculture is urging horse owners to make sure that their animals are vaccinated against two of the diseases — West Nile Virus and Eastern equine encephalitis.
To prevent mosquitoes from taking a bite out of your summer fun, the American Mosquito Control Association has these tips for homeowners to keep those pesky intruders under control.
Always remember the three D's of protection from mosquitoes:
Drain: Many mosquito problems in your neighborhood are likely to come from water-filled containers that you, the resident, can help to eliminate. All mosquitoes require water in which to breed. Be sure to drain any standing water around your house.
Dress: Wear light-colored, loose fitting clothing. Some mosquito species are attracted to dark clothing and some can bite through tight-fitting clothes. When practical, wear long sleeves and pants.
Defend: Choose a mosquito repellent that has been registered by the Environmental Protection Agency, such as DEET, Picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Registered products have been reviewed, approved, and pose minimal risk for human safety when used according to label directions.
The American Mosquito Control Association has declared June 21-27 as National Mosquito Control Awareness Week to educate the public about the significance of mosquitoes in daily life and the important service provided by mosquito control workers throughout the United States and worldwide.
Visit our Web site at www.pascomosquito.org for more information.
Dennis Moore is director of the Pasco County Mosquito Control District and current president of the Florida Mosquito Control Association.