Central Florida's Agri-Leader
Mosquitoes are a part of Florida living and you will most certainly begin to notice an increase in their numbers as we move closer to the wet, summer months.
These pesky insects are not only a nuisance, but they can also carry diseases that can make you sick. Mosquito borne illness alerts are issued in our state when necessary. These alerts are designed to let Florida residents know when to be more careful when exposed to mosquitoes.
Michael J. Mahler is the mosquito control manager for the Polk County Parks & Natural Resources Division and he spoke about the current alerts in our area.
“Polk and Highlands counties are not under any mosquito borne illness alerts at this time,” Mahler said. “However, Hillsborough County is under an alert due to a confirmed case of Eastern equine encephalitis.”
Learning a little bit about how mosquitoes live and breed in Central Florida goes a long way to keeping them at bay. There are about 80 species of mosquitoes that live in Florida, and that is more than any other state. But not all mosquitoes are capable of transmitting infectious diseases.
According to the University of Florida, IFAS Extension, only 13 species are able to make humans and animals sick. The three most dangerous mosquito-borne illnesses in our area are West Nile Virus, St. Louis encephalitis and Eastern Equine encephalitis. You can get sick if you are bitten by an infected mosquito.
The Department of Health has several ways to keep an eye on sources of these viruses. Chickens are placed in areas where biting mosquitoes are found and samples of blood are taken each week to be sure none of them are infected. If local veterinarians treat sick horses, blood samples will be harvested and sent to a laboratory for testing.
Mosquitoes are also collected in areas of heavy infestation and tested. These control methods may sound a bit radical, but they are working to keep infectious diseases at bay. The person infected with Eastern equine encephalitis in Hillsborough County is the first confirmed case in three years.
As a homeowner, there are many ways you can help keep mosquito populations lower in your area. A variety of trapping devices designed to lure mosquitoes are available for purchase by homeowners. These traps work by generating carbon dioxide that draws mosquitoes in and traps them inside.
Bug zappers can also kill mosquitoes along with a number of other pests. However, these methods are not the best way to keep mosquitoes away. Cultural practices prevent mosquito breeding and are considered by experts the best way to reduce mosquito populations.
Eliminating their habitat will keep mosquitoes from laying larvae that will eventually hatch into biting pests. Since moisture is a key element in mosquito breeding, it is important to reduce all sources of standing water around your home. Throw away unused swimming pools, tin cans, flower pots and old tires that can collect water. If you have a birdbath, be sure to change the water once a week and check for areas where water may collect in your yard.
Some of the most common areas are around air conditioners, leaky faucets and low areas in your yard where water frequently puddles. Adding a rain sensor to your irrigation system will prevent over-watering during the rainy season, which will also help eliminate excess moisture.
Heavy vegetation can also give mosquitoes and other pests a place to hide. Mowing your lawn frequently and pulling weeds close to the foundation of your home will reduce insects. If these areas are heavily infested, consider spraying insecticides on the lower limbs of trees and around shrubs close to your home.
During the summer, Florida residents must be vigilant to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Always wear protective clothing when going outdoors and use a DEET-based insect repellent. If you are having an outdoor get-together, place tiki-torches filled with citronella oil to keep mosquitoes out of the area.
Keeping these few things in mind will help you reduce mosquitoes around your home and are an important part of preventing illness. Having fewer of these biting insects near your home will also make outdoor summer activities much more enjoyable for you and your family.