How Local Communities Deal with Mosquitoes
Although we live in an affluent country and have access to reasonable health care, we are not immune from what many developing nations struggle with daily: mosquito-borne diseases. Mosquitoes are dangerous primarily because they carry multiple strains of diseases, breed quickly, and can overwhelm an unprepared community. However, local communities can implement strategic management programs to eliminate mosquitoes safely and effectively.
Public mosquito control isn’t new. In fact, total mosquito control budgets top $200 million in the U.S. And new methods are being tested every day. Read on to find out how your community can start managing this tough pest.
A Word About Safety
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ensures regulations put forth by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act are followed during both public and private mosquito control initiatives. While new mosquito treatments are being tested, the EPA makes sure the public’s safety is weighed against the effectiveness of each technique.
Area-Wide Source Reduction
Source reduction is usually a good first step. Community-wide mosquito control focuses on eliminating mosquito breeding points – stagnant ponds, improper drainage, and other water sources. Communities will often fill in low-lying areas that tend to collect water, correct drainage issues, or plant natural mosquito predators in local ponds and streams. This method of mosquito control is referred to as biological control, or biocontrol, and is a popular choice among residents who may be anxious about chemical control.
Some of the fish that are natural predators to mosquitoes and their larvae are:
- Atlantic char
- Fathead minnows
There are also certain parasites and pathogens that may be introduced in order to decimate mosquitoes, their larvae, and eggs. Dragonflies, birds, certain types of lizards, and geckos can also be introduced, although it is extremely important for extensive research to be done so that the introduction of different species does not have an adverse effect on an area’s natural ecosystem.
There are other natural ways to eradicate mosquitoes, such as infecting them with mosquito-specific diseases. One method of mosquito control is to drop a soil bacterium that occurs naturally into large areas inhabited by mosquito larvae, known as Bacillus thuringiensis. The larvae eat the bacterium and die.
Other biocontrol methods are currently being researched and tested.
Chemical Control of Mosquitoes
When biocontrol does not effectively eliminate large numbers of mosquitoes, or counties feel that there is an imminent threat of mosquito-spread disease, they use chemical methods of mosquito prevention. This can include a variety of measures, from spraying breeding areas with insecticide, to treating aquatic plants where mosquitoes may breed. The spray manifests as a very small aerosol droplet that is designed specifically to attack adult male mosquitoes. There have been many questions as to whether or not these sprays are harmful to other insects and animals, and residents that are sensitive to pesticides and other sprays can ask that the vicinity or roadsides where they live not be sprayed.
Aside from biocontrol and spraying, communities have been known to utilize mosquito traps, bug zappers, and oil drips (which produce a thin layer of oil on top of water).
Those in charge of area-wide mosquito control continue to research the insect with hopes to produce even more effective mosquito control for years to come.
Mosquito Control Boards
The decision on how local communities treat mosquitoes is usually made at a local government level, and includes county or district health officials and the mayor. They will also often ask that people take precautions such as wearing long sleeves, using insect repellants, and removing areas of stagnant water from around their own homes and property.
Communities can combat the infestation of mosquitoes by observing some of the following:
- Organize a community mosquito watch board
- Include and engage all necessary individuals from government agencies and businesses
- Raise public awareness
- Prepare and educate communities about pesticide spraying
A community watch board is perhaps the key component to eliminating mosquito breeding grounds. These boards are typically responsible for making sure that surrounding businesses, schools, and agencies eliminate potential mosquito breeding habitats, and for keeping track of public health issues associated with mosquito-borne disease outbreaks.