Bzzzz! It’s Mosquito Season

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Dump All Standing Water

Here on Fort Myers Beach, we have lots of seasons: hurricane season, turtle season, stingray season, dry season and snowbird season. While they all have their pros and cons – even hurricanes do some good in that they provide lots of rain and stir up nutrients in the ocean – there is one season that absolutely no one looks forward to – mosquito season. Like it or not, however, with the summer rains and warm temperatures come the pesky little buzzers and, since this week – June 26-July 2 – is National Mosquito Control Awareness Week, we wanted to give folks some tips on how to prevent these tiny flying vampires from ruining your afternoon cook-out.

“While we haven’t had any cases on Fort Myers Beach, the mosquito that carries the Zika virus is a container breeder, so this year I’m really stressing the point that people be diligent about emptying containers in their yard,” said Michael Mills, Director of Fort Myers Beach Mosquito Control District (MCD). “Anything that holds stagnant water can breed mosquitoes – baby pools, drip pans under potted plants, cans, garbage lids – it doesn’t take much.”

While mosquito borne illnesses like malaria and yellow fever kill millions each year around the world, in this country those diseases are relatively rare. In the United States, infected mosquitoes carry West Nile Virus and Encephalitis and other diseases posing risks to both humans and animals.

Mosquitoes are well-evolved little critters – they’ve been around for over 30 million years. Only female mosquitoes bite, needing blood for their eggs. One mosquito can lay about a thousand eggs each month. They are a finely tuned machine when it comes to finding a blood meal, with sensors that detect heat, carbon dioxide and sweat. The best hope of avoiding a bite is to confuse their chemical receptors by using something like DEET.

Residents can protect themselves against these small predators by following the 5 D’s: Dawn and dusk are when mosquitoes are most active, so stay inside. Don’t expose skin – wear light-colored, loose clothing as mosquitoes are more attracted to dark colors and can bite through tight garments; DEET – use a repellant with DEET. And the most important thing – Dump stagnant water!

“Mosquitoes will lay eggs anywhere there is standing water,” Mills told us. “We urge residents to clear their yards of any container that may harbor standing water – which is nirvana to breeding mosquitoes.”

Any place where water can collect, like a tarp that has accumulated standing water or even an area with a lot of loose leaves that provide a place for mosquitoes to lay eggs that will hatch when it rains.

“Most people on the island are pretty diligent about policing their areas for standing water,” Michael told us. “But it only takes one forgotten empty sand bucket to cause an infestation that will affect an entire street.”

Other tips Mills shared with us include: fill in or drain any low places – like puddles or ruts – in the yard, keep drains, ditches and culverts clean of weeds and trash so water can drain properly and cover all trash containers to keep out the rainwater.

“Repair leaky pipes and outside faucets,” he told us. “Empty plastic wading pools at least once a week and store it indoors when not in use. Make sure your backyard is properly cared for while on vacation. Fill in tree rot holes and hollow stumps that hold water with sand or concrete. Change the water in bird baths and plant pots or drip trays at least once each week.”

Not all water attracts the bugs. Since the eggs lay on top, or halfway under, the water’s surface, any movement would drown them so fountains are rarely used. Neither are pools due to the chemicals in them.

Watson told us that since the rainy season has yet to begin, the MCD has yet to see any problems.

“But once the ground is saturated, the mosquitoes begin to breed in huge numbers,” she said. “So now is the time for everyone to thoroughly check their yards for anything that will hold water – if there is water, they will find it, even if it’s an old bottle cap.”

The Fort Myers Beach Mosquito Control District is an old one, established on July 12, 1949 through a successful referendum vote. It remains an independent district even though Lee County consolidated the other three districts – Boca Grande, Sanibel and Fort Myers – in 1958. The area the FMBMCD covers is relatively small, about 26 square miles, which allows the MCD’s tiny staff to know their territory very well and they use the most environmentally friendly chemicals they can when they do have to spray.

While our local mosquitoes pose little health risk to humans, most of them can potentially carry the dangerous heartworm viruses that dogs and cats contract. For that reason, Mills begs islanders to make sure their furry family members are current on all their shots before the rainy season kicks in.

“Make sure your dogs and cats are vaccinated,” Mills urged. “Our mosquitoes can be quite dangerous for them.”

To report a mosquito problem, call the FMB Mosquito Control District at 463-6350.

Keri Hendry Weeg