2017-06-15 / Top News

Salt marsh mosquito numbers highest since late 1980s

The Collier Mosquito Control District continues to see high numbers of salt marsh mosquitoes through its surveillance program and is scheduling missions to control the aggressive biters. The habitat that produces these mosquitoes is so abundant to the south and east of Naples, the pests are coming off the mangroves in broods easily numbering in the trillions, and southerly winds are bringing them into populated areas.

“In a typical year, we don’t normally see these mosquitoes in such abundance,” said Patrick Linn, CMCD executive director. “The last time we had a salt marsh mosquito season this bad in Collier County was in the late 1980s, when they killed a rancher’s cattle by suffocating them.”

The salt marsh mosquito, or Aedes taeniorhynchus, does not transmit the Zika virus, but is capable of vectoring dog heartworm.

The winter drought is believed to be a major factor in the current proliferation, and the high tides and full moons during the past weeks have created ideal conditions for their breeding habitat in the state and federally protected acreage throughout southern Collier County. Winds from the south have enabled these mosquitoes to infiltrate many portions of the county; it isn’t uncommon for them to travel up to 40 miles on wind currents.

CMCD is not permitted to apply larvicides in those protected areas, so targeting the flying adults is the only option for mitigating their populations.

“While our area greatly needed last week’s rains, it forced us to cancel some of our scheduled treatments,” Mr. Linn said. “Weather is the single most critical factor in our ability to treat,” he added. “We must look at every aspect from wind direction and speed to sky conditions, and the cancellations were disappointing.”

A longer-term drop in their numbers is expected after this current brood, and an increase in fresh water mosquito populations will begin when summer rains create standing water.

In the meantime, the district recommends minimizing time spent outdoors during dusk/dawn (the most active times for mosquitoes); using a repellent with DEET in it (or options such as picaridin, IR 3535 or oil of lemon and eucalyptus); wearing clothing that covers the most skin, when reasonable; and draining standing water in items around the yard or home.

Residents are encouraged to visit www.cmcd.org or to use the district’s mobile application to check the treatment schedule maps and time, as well as to report nuisance mosquitoes and sign up for notifications of upcoming treatments. ¦

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