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Bad bug: Worst mosquito season in years, experts say

Lee County offers up tips on how to avoid being bit

July 19, 2017
By MELISSA BILL (news@breezenewspapers.com) , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Between May and October, Southwest Florida falls prey to one notorious biting bug - the mosquito.

According to officials, this year's epidemic is one of the worst they have seen in over 20 years. Lehigh Acres, along with other parts of Lee County, are the target for ongoing aerial adulticide and other treatments in an effort to get numbers down.

"The increase in population can be attributed to two things," Shelly Redovan, communications deputy director of the Lee County Mosquito Control District, said. "When the water dried up, it took out the natural predators of mosquitos, so they had nothing to keep them in check."

"To make things worse, during the end of May the rain lasted for weeks at a time, which made it impossible to get helicopters out," she said.

According to Redovan, the district's helicopters are now working overtime to get the population of mosquitos under control.

"We've done more treatments during this month than in the entire year," she said.

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Even with an integrated pest management program, the district is encountering some species that are difficult to kill such as the Aedes aegypti, otherwise known as the "sneak attack mosquito." The species is famous for carrying infections, including the dengue, chikungunya and Zika virus and yellow fever.

"We are looking at other ways to control more resilient species, such as Aedes aegypti and Aydie alapictus," Redovan said.

The sterile insect technique is one possible option being looked at by the district. Using the technique, male mosquitos are sterilized through radiation and released into the wild to compete for females.

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Personal protection measure

Mosquitos can pose a real nuisance, but they play an important role in the ecosystem. In their larvae stage, they are a major food source for aquatic predators. Until the height of season is over, the most important thing people can do is protect themselves when going outside and prevent raising their own mosquito colonies near homes. The following are some helpful tips:

- Dress in light-colored clothing with long sleeves and pants.

- Apply repellants containing DEET prior to heading outside.

- For babies under 3 months, no repellant; cover with a mosquito net.

- CDC recommends DEET, IR 3535 or oil of lemon eucalyptus for babies over 3 months old.

- Avoid going out during dusk and dawn when mosquitos are at their worst.

- Keep plants away from the front doors; mosquito use them to hide.

- Avoid using bright white lighting near doorways.

- Keep air conditioning on cold side; mosquitoes need humidity to survive.

Source: Lee County Mosquito Control District

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Tips for homeowners

- Do not have pools of standing water around the house; check garbage cans, plant pots, bird feeders or any other area where water collects.

- Make sure window screens are in good shape.

- Keep gutters clean and free from debris.

- Stock ornamental ponds with plenty of fish and keep vegetation limited.

- Empty and clean wading pools; keep large pools chlorinated and filtered.

- If mosquitos increase in your area, call the Lee County Mosquito Control District at 239-694-2174 or request service online at: www.lcmcd.com.

Source: Lee County Mosquito Control District

"The patented version can be very expensive, so instead we would raise our own colony made from local mosquitoes, then sterilize the males and release them into the wild," she said.

Experts not only worry about the resilience of these species, but also the viruses they spread. Besides Zika, viruses like dengue can be dangerous because they tend to linger in the body for up to a year.

"We have a great partnership with the health department, who keeps us informed if someone is infected, so we can immediately treat those areas," Redovan said.

 
 

 

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