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Area residents are reluctant to talk about mosquitoes when they are not being bothered by them.

“Mum’s the word,” they say.

However, it is important to talk about them now as species of disease-carrying mosquitoes can be found in Southwest Florida that bring with them infectious diseases known as Dengue Fever and Chikungunya.

There are 44 different species of mosquitoes in Collier County, according to Collier Mosquito Control District web information.

“Fortunately, most of the mosquitoes you have on Capri have been the small black non-disease carrying Saltwater Marsh, or more commonly called Swamp Angels,” said Adrian Salinas, CMCD public information officer. These are more of a “nuisance” type, said Salinas.

“They bite and are pesky, but they do not usually carry disease, except for heartworms in pets.”

According to Elizabeth Groff, assistant with CMCD, there have been no complaints from the Capri area thus far this year and, therefore, no spraying treatments have been dispatched.

“This can change overnight though, and if it does, you can follow the spraying schedule on our website at www.cmcd.org,”said Groff.

There is truth in the old saying that if we get a hearty rainy season, we notice less saltwater marsh Mmosquitoes. With major high tides and extended periods of rain, the mosquito larvae are washed out of the Mangroves where they are alive therefore allowing the minnows to eat them. High tides washing in and out help control the larvae as well.

According to Groff, these make up the majority of the types we have on Capri. Only a few of the fresh water variety have been seen as of July 17.

Salinas warns that as of the last few years, more disease-carrying species have emerged. In 2010, there was an influx of varieties carrying different types of encephalitis. Now as of late, three new ones are on the scene.

“The aedes aegypti, aedes albopictus, and the Chikungunya are here as well,” said Salinas. “These species can spread disease from one person to another through their bites,” warned Salinas.

“The latter three are container-produced,” said Salinas. He warns residents to remove all standing water around our homes and businesses. Culprits such as tires, buckets, kiddie pools, bird baths, and bromeliads are hosts for larvae. Anything that can hold water can produce mosquitoes. Only the female bites. She needs blood meal to produce her eggs.

Important functions

The CMCD has two important functions. They exist for public health protection by reducing the potential for disease transmission, and their second role is to keep the nuisance mosquitoes to a level that can be tolerated by residents and visitors so that they can enjoy life outdoors in SW Florida.

Probably very few residents know that CMCD sends out a collector shortly after dawn seven days a week to monitor the population of mosquitoes on the Isles of Capri, Marco Island and Goodland. There are 18 stations in these areas. If the count is up, 15 or more per minute, then air mosquito control is alerted to schedule a fly-over. Freshwater mosquitoes are also found when a lot of rain stands in the ditches. These can be treated with a spray directly from the CMCD truck.

Samples from the monitoring stations are taken to the office where they are nuked in the microwave for the kill. They are then spread out and counted. The count determines the treatment schedule. The spray used is a form of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a beneficial bacteria used as an agricultural pesticide for its primary larvaciding compound. It acts as a stomach toxin, and must be digested to be effective. It is highly specific and therefore creates little negative impact on non-target species in the aquatic environment. The district also uses Altosid, an insect growth regulator for larval control. Altosid disrupts the development of the juvenile mosquito, preventing it from maturing.

In Collier, there are two diseases endemic to Florida of immediate concern to the CMCD. St. Louis encephalitis and West Nile virus are both mosquito-borne diseases that attack the nervous system. In severe cases, they cause swelling of the brain that can cause long-term neurological effects or even death. And now the department is concerned with the new ones on the rise that cause Dengue Fever and Chikungunya.

No vaccines

The Florida Department of Health has confirmed a rise in the number of cases of dengue fever and Chikungunya and to date have no vaccines to prevent them. In the beginning, the cases in the sunshine state involved those who had traveled to the Caribbean or South America, but epidemiologists now worry those Florida mosquitoes may be spreading the illnesses.

Dengue is a potentially fatal disease and both can cause long-term problems. Walter Tabachnick, director of Florida Medical Entomological Laboratory in Vero Beach, feels that the threat is real, and that the mosquitoes in our locality will sooner or later be infected and spread the disease even more.

“The best way to prevent mosquito borne disease, is not to get bitten,” said Salinas. He recommends avoiding outside activities during dawn, dusk, and evening. “If you have to be outside, wear protective clothing and spray your clothes, not your skin, with deet,” Salinas said. If you use the age-old advice from friends and neighbors to rub fabric sheets on for repellent, be sure not to rub it on your skin. These good-smelling sheets contain toxic chemicals that are known to kill rats. Some find brief relief by spraying a lemon liquid detergent around the premises of their patios and decks. The latter two suggestions offered by Capri residents are not substantiated by CMCD research.

Contact Ann Hall at ahall7911@coconuttele.net

More information

Go to cmcd.org or call 239-436-1000. You can also call 239-1010 to access the mosquito spraying schedule for your area.

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