Buzzkill Print
Written by Jeff Shimonski, BT Contributor   
August 2017

Mosquito eradication is everybody’s business

SPix_YourGarden_8-17o what’s the issue with the crappy photo that accompanies this article? It looks like a bucket filled with dirty water, right? Correct. You’re looking at a bucket that is not only filled with water, but a bucket that has hundreds of mosquito larvae happily growing in that water.

I took this photo right before I knocked over the bucket to kill the larvae and then turned it upside-down so mosquito larvae wouldn’t be able to breed in it anymore. That is, until someone turns it back over so it can fill with rainwater once again and present female mosquitoes with a place to lay their eggs and raise healthy offspring.

This property, where I was working to inspect and document trees, is not in a poor, rundown neighborhood. It is a residential property worth millions of dollars. I’d assume the owners would care enough about the risks, or make sure their staff who maintain the property are aware of the fact that mosquitoes breed in water and that we here in South Florida have issues with certain species of mosquitoes vectoring diseases.

I work throughout our region and the Caribbean on properties that range from high-end residential and commercial properties to lower-income properties. Too often I find sites that are successfully breeding mosquitoes. I visit construction sites and abandoned buildings, and sometimes think I should do a study on why people don’t take responsibility for their properties, or why the people who enter those properties to work don’t take the very simple steps of draining and turning over containers, or covering the open bodies of water.

Yes, mosquitoes blow in from the Everglades or from adjacent salt marshes. This has been going on since the beginning of time. For decades I was responsible for mosquito spraying and mosquito larvae control at Parrot Jungle and Jungle Island.

At Parrot Jungle at one time or another, I sprayed with malathion, Dursban, Baygon, naled, and a few other chemicals. You know what always became obvious? In time we would have resistance issues, and the kill rate for the mosquitoes would decline. I would then have to use another chemical, increase dosage, or as often happened, spray the park twice.

I’ve told this story before: At Jungle Island, I began a mosquito-larvae-control program on Watson Island that obviated the need to spray. Yes, at least three or four times in six years we hit the action threshold where it would have been necessary to spray -- but since the entire county was filled with mosquitoes, local spraying would not have accomplished much.

What can you accomplish by controlling mosquito larvae? You can remove a significant percentage of mosquitoes in your area; and the larger the area, the more successful the overall control can be.

As far as disease issues are concerned, the mosquitoes that vector disease are certain species that usually breed in certain situations, like that bucket of water that had been sitting out in the sun and is full of organic material. I would find thousands of Culex quinquefasciatus in storm drains that were filled with polluted water. This mosquito species is a serious vector of disease.

I’ve been on properties where I collected mosquito larvae to identify in my office and often found species of Aedes, another group of disease vectors.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve informed property owners of mosquito breeding sites on their properties and been met with total ambivalence. I’d tell them that these mosquitoes might also transmit dog and cat heartworm since they had pets. That still wouldn’t get them motivated.

So everyone is up in arms about spraying for mosquitoes and how it kills other species of beneficial insects. This is correct. We had major insect pest issues at Parrot Jungle, and we were always spraying. But at Jungle Island we didn’t spray insecticides and we were rewarded with a healthy and diverse population of beneficial insects.

If you’re against spraying naled, are you also against mosquito misting systems that indiscriminately discharge pesticides into the environment, on a timed schedule? What’s the difference? What about all those landscape contractors always spraying properties on a regular schedule? I watch people spraying sidewalks, lawns, the walls of buildings, and anything else that doesn’t move, and really want to ask them, what are they doing?

How about walking around your property on a weekly basis and inspecting it for standing water? If everyone did that, or made their landscape contractors do it, we’d definitely have far fewer mosquitoes biting us, would have to spray less, and might even do something like allow beneficial insects to thrive.

 

Jeff Shimonski is an ISA-certified arborist municipal specialist, retired director of horticulture at Parrot Jungle and Jungle Island, and principal of Tropical Designs of Florida. Contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 

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