South Florida Mosquito Season

Slow South Florida mosquito season could pick up

Although complaints about mosquitoes are way down, those pesky critters are still making their presence felt.

BY LAURA C. MOREL

lmorel@MiamiHerald.com

There’s good news for humans and bad news for bugs: This year’s mosquito season won’t be too pesky. For now.

“I think it’s going to be a quiet year,” said Miami-Dade Mosquito Control inspector Raymond Patrick.

But the season might pick up if the rainy weather keeps up.

Mosquito season arrives along with rainy season, starting in May and ending in October.

According to Larry Hribar, senior entomologist at the Florida Keys Mosquito Control, the more it rains, the more those six-legged pests emerge.

This year’s number of mosquito-related calls has dwindled to about half of last year’s calls in South Florida.

Broward County Mosquito Control manager Joseph Marhefka said 2009 was the worst in the past 15 years for the county.

Miami-Dade Mosquito Control director Sandra Fisher couldn’t agree more.

“So far this year, it’s no where near what it was last year,” she said.

30 TRAPS

Patrick was recently on the lookout for the critters in the Key Biscayne area, collecting some of the 30 traps that Miami-Dade Mosquito Control set up throughout the county.

They are tucked away in grassy, wet areas and can only be spotted by an orange mark warning the inspector a trap lies ahead.

The traps hang from trees with a small flashlight bulb on the top that attracts the bugs, along with a container filled with dry ice (solidified carbon dioxide). When they get close, a fan sucks them inside.

Carbon dioxide attracts mosquitoes, which is why they crave humans and animals.

Mosquitoes are also attracted to amino acids, lactic acids and pheromones, which humans secrete when they sweat.

“Basically, they’re looking for you,” Hribar said.

But as Patrick removed the trap from its hiding place, only a couple of mosquitoes swirled inside.

“This time of year, you wouldn’t be able to stand here if it was bad,” he said.

A skeeter circled around Patrick’s neck. He swatted it away with his hand.

“They love me,” he said.

Mosquito control inspectors also perform landing tests, where the inspector stands still in one area for three to four minutes and counts the number of mosquitoes that bite. These are done about three times a week in Miami-Dade County.

The traps are taken to mosquito control to count and classify the bugs.

There are nearly 80 species of mosquitoes in Florida.

The black salt marsh mosquito is one of the most common. This bothersome bug lives in mangroves and salt marshes, depositing their eggs on moist soil. The eggs can dry out and last for a couple of years. But when the soil gets moist again, they will hatch.

“All those eggs are sitting there waiting,” Hribar said.

“They’re not just an annoyance, they can be a human or animal health problem,” he added.

DENGUE DANGER

The domestic mosquito — which can breed in a teaspoon of water and are found near homes — can transmit dengue. So far this year, 12 cases of dengue have been confirmed in Key West.

The sure way to get rid of the pests: dump standing water.

Called to a home on Southwest 22nd Street, a Miami-Dade Mosquito Control inspector found 14 containers, from paint buckets to flower pots to plates, filled with water.

After spraying the yard, inspector Yanet Chiong told the homeowner to keep those containers empty. If not, Chiong warned, the mosquitoes will come back.

“I’ll do whatever you tell me,” Ana Cubillo told her.

One of the problems this year are issues with foreclosed or abandoned homes.

“What if there’s a swimming pool, what if there’s containers on there, blocked-off roof gutters?” Hribar said.

Inspectors contact the real-estate agents and gain entrance into the homes to fix the mosquito problem.

Patrick said Miami-Dade Mosquito Control sometimes places mosquito larvae-eating gamboozie fish into swimming pools.

Patrick said homeowners should clear out water from outside containers, make sure swimming pools have chlorine and wash out bird baths once a week.

“That’s the best advice,” he said.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/07/11/1725029/slow-south-florida-mosquito-season.html#ixzz0tVMiRELa
Al Hoffer’s Mosquito Control
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