Collier, Lee mosquito control districts find 'widespread' West Nile Virus
Southwest Florida’s wet season provides perfect breeding grounds for mosquitos, and Collier’s mosquito control district has identified West Nile Virus in a large swath of the county.
Scientists at the district have discovered West Nile-carrying mosquitoes in traps throughout Ave Maria, Immokalee, Golden Gate Estates and Naples.
“In the past week, we are seeing that most of the traps we are bringing in have positive mosquitoes in them,” said Robin King, the district’s spokesperson. “It’s widespread in our area. It doesn’t matter if you’re in Naples, Immokalee or northern Golden Gate, it’s everywhere.”
King said the district has not heard of any reports of the virus in humans, though there were seven documented cases last year.
In Lee County, the mosquito control district’s sentinel chicken flocks have also identified West Nile Virus in the area.
“We most recently found them in Lehigh, North Fort Myers and central Fort Myers, down by Bonita (Springs) and on Pine Island,” said Eric Jackson, deputy director at Lee County Mosquito & Hyacinth Control Districts. “Pretty much throughout the county.”
The mosquitos that carry West Nile virus, called culex, can lay eggs on top of standing water, so it’s important for residents around Southwest Florida to dump any standing water in their yards on a weekly basis.
And culex, a species that is native to the area, prefer dirty, nutrient-rich waters.
“The nastier the water the happier they are,” King said.
Both control districts are applying larvicide and adulticide to curb the pesky mosquito populations and keep human diseases at bay.
“In response, field technicians are putting larval control material in roadside ditches and increasing the number of applications and treatments we do for both adult and larvae,” King said.
Lee’s district is also relying heavily on surveillance. Sending out technicians to places to find where the culex are popping up.
“There’s a lot of boots on the ground,” Jackson said.
Both Jackson and King urge residents to stay vigilant around their yards. Dumping water from buckets, bird baths and making sure fountains and pools aren’t stagnant breeding grounds.
“Another thing to pay attention to are gutters on houses,” Jackson said. “You could have mosquitoes growing right above head because you have clogged gutters. That’s just perfect for those mosquitoes to grow.”
In Collier, King recalls a recent resident who noticed many mosquitoes but wasn’t sure where they were coming from.
“They had a four-foot-wide fountain in their front yard near the front door that had not been operating all summer,” she said. “It was filled with stagnant water and the larvae so thick you could scoop them out with a cup. They didn’t realize they were farming their own mosquitoes.”
To avoid bites, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using a repellent with one of six active ingredients, such as: DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-methane-diol or 2-undecanone.
“When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women,” the CDC’s website says.
If a resident suspects the presence of mosquitos breeding on their property, King suggests calling the mosquito control district to get a technician out to the area.
“I think it’s important that people be proactive and do their part to protect themselves,” she said. “We are doing what we can do, so it’s an opportunity for people to do their part as well.”
Karl Schneider is an environment reporter. You can reach him at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @karlstartswithk