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Mosquitoes may have ‘average' season

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FROM THE TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH:
 
Mosquitoes may have ‘average' season
BY KELLY GOOCH
kgooch@tylerpaper.com

Mosquitoes haven't been a big problem for Carolyn Chalender yet this year.

Ms. Chalender, a resident of the Emerald Bay community, said she hasn't noticed any infestation and didn't see mosquitoes or gnats when she was on Lake Palestine last Saturday evening.

However, the 61-year-old said she realizes things can change as summer approaches and people begin to water more.

More mosquitoes could come, but "right now, we haven't seen anything," Ms. Chalender said.
The prevalence of mosquitoes is dependent on the weather and what happens during the course of the season, said Dr. Mike Merchant, professor and extension urban entomologist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

However, Bob Gardner, Tyler animal/mosquito control supervisor with the Northeast Texas Public Health District, said via email that based on the number of calls, investigations so far and preliminary investigations of areas that are treated annually, he expects this year to be "within the realm of the average." 

"We are prepared for much more than that, we have the chemicals and the manpower in place to handle more, but at this point in time we do not expect a more than normal season," Gardner wrote.

Still, officials said there are measures people can take to help keep the pests away from their home.

More than 3,000 species of mosquitoes exist worldwide, according to animals.nationalgeographic.com.
That entails Anopheles mosquitoes which carry malaria, Culex mosquitoes, which carry various diseases, including the West Nile virus, and Aedes mosquitoes, which includes the Asian tiger, the website states.

Aedes mosquitoes are likely the most prominent in this area and carry yellow fever, dengue and encephalitis — none of which East Texas has a big outbreak of, Gardner said. 

He said diseases that mosquitoes carry can come from birds, and the female mosquito gets the West Nile virus because it injects to pull the blood meal for the protein to feed her eggs. 

"She injects actually two needles — one is an anticoagulant she injects to keep blood from clogging, and (another) withdraws blood from the victim, whether it's a bird (or other animal) or a person, into the mosquito," he said. "If that bird is carrying a disease (such as) West Nile, encephalitis or yellow fever, when the mosquito then comes to you or me to get more blood, they've got that contamination on that same little needle that they inject into us, and that's how we get it into our blood system."

So how can people help prevent mosquitoes?

Gardner said cleaning up back yards and getting rid of standing water can go a long way. 

Although there may be a creek or stream in the area, when the health district responds to a complaint, 85 percent to 90 percent of the time it finds the source is on that property, he said.

That source, he said, might be an inverted pot plant, a bucket laying out in the yard, the cap from a water bottle or dirty gutters.

If leaves fall into the gutter system and block drainage, mosquitoes feed off the dirty leaves because that forms algae and other growth, Gardner said.

Also, he said plastic tarps people put in their back yard to cover wood can get puddles of water, which breed mosquitoes, or people will leave a wheelbarrow inverted, and that'll build up water.

Additionally, he said untreated water can build up on tarps over swimming pools, stagnate and harbor and grow mosquitoes. 

The bottom line, he said, is for people to pour out standing water around the back yard and not let water stagnate.

"You can have a bird bath, and you should have a bird bath in your yard. The squirrels love it. The birds love it. But you need to keep that water rotated out," Gardner said.

He said a lot of people also like to collect rain water for plants, and there's nothing wrong with that if they cover the can. He suggested that people use a mosquito net as a cover.

He said he can use a fog machine on streets to kill mosquitoes or treat creeks, streams, ponds and lakes, but that's a small percentage of where the bugs come from, and people must take care of their own back yards. He said the bugs are born, bred and die within about 100 to 150 yards.

As far as attracting mosquitoes, many people think that mosquitoes will seek them out because of perfumes or other similar smells, Gardner said, but they actually seek out carbon dioxide that humans breathe out.

"That's what they zone in on. Specific fragrances don't attract them near as much as people think …" he said. "If you use a body wash and it's emanating from you, that will have a tendency to attract because they like that smell, but more than that they zone in on the carbon dioxide. That's what they're looking for."

He said he wears long sleeves throughout the year because he does mosquito investigations and will spray himself with DEET repellant, which he highly recommends.

Jacksonville Vector Control Coordinator Kelly Young said mosquitoes are most active from dusk until dawn. 

But Gardner said people who have problems with mosquitoes are going to continue to have issues with them because the mosquitoes come back.

"When they (mosquitoes) can lay eggs and eggs lay dormant five or six years, even if they take care of the problem — the standing water — I've still got eggs laying there," he said.

He added, "The infestation of mosquitoes is so severe. We can't shake this. We can treat it. We can make runs at it. But until we literally start taking it serious in our own back yards — accept the responsibility of it instead of trying to lay the blame for it — until that happens, we're going to have issues with mosquitoes."
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