You have probably heard the news there have been confirmed cases of the Zika virus in north Miami. The potential of contracting the Zika virus has all of us concerned but it’s not the only threat from mosquitoes. West Nile virus also continues to be a concern.
Last year the CDC reported a total of 2,060 cases of West Nile virus, Georgia had 15. California was most impacted with 730 cases and 45 deaths. Dengue fever cases have also been reported in Florida, Hawaii and along the Texas–Mexico border. The threat that mosquitoes pose to us has always and will continue to be significant.
Mosquitoes are serious pests that can bite around the clock; there is no luxury of limited risk periods to perform outdoor activities. And to make matters worse, some individuals are mosquito magnets. Scientists are researching to find out why, but individuals who exude higher amounts of cholesterol, uric acid and carbon dioxide are prime targets.
What can we do to protect ourselves? Let’s start by being vigilant in our outdoor areas. Tip and turn any item that can hold water after a rain or irrigation period. Clogged gutters, the crevices of plastic toys, garbage cans, rain barrels without screened covers, and bird baths are some of the biggest neighborhood breeding grounds. Don’t skip the bottle top with water in it — seriously! Encourage your neighbors to do the same to limit nearby mosquitoes.
Some mosquitoes will fly up to a mile in search of a blood meal but every little bit of effort to reduce nearby breeding grounds pays big dividends. Trim landscape plants, overgrown shrubs serve as resting places that shield mosquitoes from natural predators. If you are hosting an outside activity, foggers work for a short period of time but make sure you follow the pesticide label as directed.
To avoid being bitten by mosquitoes follow these guidelines. Wear light colored clothing, such as whites, khaki and beiges during the day. During periods of low light the color of clothing is not important. Avoid perfumes and colognes if you plan to spend a significant amount of time outdoors. Cover up; opt for long sleeves shirts and pants when practical. Use a repellent on exposed skin areas, products containing DEET, Oil of lemon eucalyptus, para-menthane-diol, or IR 3535. But, avoid using repellents on babies less than 2 months old and avoid using Oil of Lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol — Repel is one brand name — on children less than 3 years old. If you do have an infant use mosquito netting/screens to cover cribs, strollers and baby carriers. Remember, your pets need protection from mosquitoes too.
It’s hard to imagine that mosquitoes serve a purpose in our environment — but they are a significant part of the food chain. Mosquito larvae serve as a major food source for fish and other aquatic animals. Adult mosquitoes serve as a food for birds, bats, frogs and spiders. Now it goes without saying that we don’t need to help increase the mosquito populations to feed fish and animals.
Don’t get trapped into a false sense of security thinking that we don’t have to do anything yet since the Zika virus hasn’t arrived in our area; there are still plenty of concerns and potential health threats. For more information contact your local UGA County Extension Office at (912) 876-2133 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bell is Liberty County University of Georgia Extension Service agent.