mosquitoes

New Jersey Fights Mosquito Populations with Help from Tiny Crustaceans

By Marcia Anderson

Tiny copepods can decrease the need for pesticides

Tiny copepods can decrease the need for pesticides

Most people generally do not realize the number of areas around their own homes where mosquitoes can find stagnant water to lay their eggs. If something can hold water for more than a few days, it is a mosquito breeding habitat. If standing water can’t be eliminated, the control of mosquito larvae within the water container is the next best step. Some states have re-introduced natural predators, such as copepods, as part of a smart, sensible and sustainable approach called Integrated Pest Management (IPM), in the battle against mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases.

What are Copepods? Cousins of shrimp, copepods are tiny crustaceans that are usually less than 2.5 mm – the size of a pin head. They are used successfully to control mosquito larvae in Vietnam, Honduras, Brazil, Australia, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey and Puerto Rico. Many large species of copepods are voracious predators of mosquito larvae. They are an environmentally friendly tool that provides more effective biological control than any other predatory invertebrate. They can actually lessen the need for pesticides.

Raising Copepods Copepods are being grown in large numbers in New Jersey and Louisiana. They are especially effective in small containers or pools of water found in garbage dumps, roadside ditches or piles of building rubble. They are also effective in controlling the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, which can breed in the smallest of places containing water.

Large copepod species thrive in clean containers especially if given a few grains of rice as an initial food supply. If they have devoured all of the mosquito larvae in a container, a few grains of rice will keep them happy and prevent starvation. Copepods survive longer in containers near trees or other vegetation because shade prevents the containers from drying and leaf-fall provides food and a reservoir for moisture.

Mass Distribution of Copepods Thousands of large copepods (Mesocyclops sp.) can be transported in a small container to sites where they are poured, ladled or sprayed into containers. They can also be transported in backpack tanks from which they are squirted into containers with a hand-held wand. Each tank can hold enough copepods to treat a thousand or more containers, ditches, debris storage areas or even rice paddies.

New Jersey is the first state in the Northeast to use copepods. Beginning in 2011, New Jersey began deploying native copepods to county mosquito control agencies, inspired by an extremely successful program in New Orleans, Louisiana. As of 2013, more than half of New Jersey counties had incorporated copepods in their mosquito management programs.

In New Jersey and Louisiana, state and county mosquito control workers release copepods into residential and commercial areas, naturally reducing the numbers of mosquitoes. There are 13,000 species of copepods but, according to professors at Florida State University’s Medical Entomology Lab, not all copepods are effective at controlling mosquitoes. They should be used only if they occur naturally in an area where they can be reproduced and counted on to reliably attack that area’s mosquito larvae. Native copepods exist in every state. Once the species are identified, it takes time to determine which are best for a laboratory breeding program. It takes at least six months to raise enough of them, more than 50,000, to begin deployment in large-scale mosquito control programs.

Much like the mosquito-eating fish used by most states, copepods are used in pools of standing water that are either hard to reach or are in areas too sensitive for pesticides. They’re more a preventive measure than an ultimate weapon, say New Jersey state officials, but they make a difference in narrowing the scale of the mosquito fight. They actually reduce the number of inspections that county workers have to make and reduce the amount of pesticides needed to control mosquitoes. Remember that when considering the introduction of any vertebrate or invertebrate species, local regulations must be followed and care must be taken not to introduce non-native species into natural aquatic environments.

By using the smart, sensible and sustainable steps IPM offers, you can take control of mosquitoes in your own community. First, eliminate breeding habitats with sanitation and maintenance. For areas of standing water that cannot be eliminated, native biological controls can be employed to facilitate a reduction of mosquitoes, resulting in a reduction of mosquito borne diseases and a diminished reliance on pesticides.

For more information on mosquito control in New York City go to:www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/environmental/wnv-community.shtml. In other areas, contact your state cooperative extension agent or local health department for region-specific guidance and visit www2.epa.gov/mosquitocontrol.

About the Author: Marcia is with EPA’s Center of Expertise for School IPM in Dallas, Texas. She holds a PhD in Environmental Management from Montclair State University along with degrees in Biology, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, and Instruction and Curriculum. Marcia was formerly with the EPA Region 2 Pesticides Program and has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology, and Oceanography at several universities.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Control Mosquitos & Protect Bees – We Need to Do Both

Did you know that in 1906 more than 85% of Panama Canal workers were hospitalized with mosquito-borne yellow fever and malaria? That was an extreme public health crisis. But don’t we all know someone who has personally experienced the devastating impacts of Lyme disease or West Nile virus?

Slug on a soybean. Photo credit: Nick Sloff

Sometimes we need insecticides to control pests and prevent disease to protect our health. But sometimes these same insecticides can be hazardous to bees, which are essential for growing crops and ensuring a wholesome, healthy food supply.

How do we protect public health from the threat of mosquito-borne illnesses, and at the same time protect bees? How do we balance the need for pesticides to control pests that wreak havoc on our crops, and prevent unintended consequences to our health and environment?

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Timing Is Key

By Lina Younes

Lately, I’ve noticed increased mosquito activity in my neighborhood. While I’m not actually seeing these pesky bugs, I have definitely been the victim of their bites. I’ve always been a virtual mosquito magnet.  And I was happy that for most of the summer I had been spared because I was taking preventive steps.  So I wondered, what was I doing wrong now? What was different?

I couldn’t confirm scientifically that my mosquito bites were directly related to a larger mosquito population in my area. Nonetheless, I think I found the likely cause of these attacks. What was my conclusion? Well, it was an issue of timing: when did I suffer more bites? Early in the evening while I was walking the dogs.

The fact is that many kinds of mosquitoes tend to be most active at sunset and early in the evening. The time that I have to take the dogs out is basically after our family dinner. Since days are starting to get shorter as we transition into fall, , that’s right after sunset. Unfortunately that is exactly when mosquitoes are most active. In other words, my dog-walking activity becomes the mosquitoes’ dinnertime. Boy, have they been having a feast! Since I can’t really delay the time I have to take the dogs for their walk, the best thing I can do is to wear clothing that will cover my skin and apply insect repellent adequately (according to the instructions on the label, of course).

Mosquito bites shouldn’t be taken lightly. In fact, diseases caused by mosquitoes are among the leading causes of illness and death in the world today. Some of these diseases include the West Nile virus, viral encephalitis, dengue, yellow fever and malaria, to name a few. Just because you might not live in a tropical area doesn’t mean that mosquitoes won’t affect you. With changes in climate patterns,  including warming trends in certain areas and increased rainfall, mosquitoes that carry some of these deadly diseases are thriving in areas that go well beyond their traditional habitats.

So, at minimum, get rid of standing water around your home to interrupt the life cycle of the mosquito. And don’t forget about the timing!

About the author:  Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Three Quick Tips to a More Enjoyable Summer

By Ashley McAvoy

We all have our favorite season of the year but I think that summer is mine. During the summer you can enjoy barbeques, going to the beach, and even camping. I absolutely love summer! But, I have to admit while it’s all fun in the sun, we need to be aware of environmental and health problems that occur during these hot summer months. Here are some tips for you to enjoy this season.

Here comes the sun…

Did you know that the sun’s rays are the strongest during the summer? This means we need to use plenty of sunscreen and wear a hat when doing activities outside. Also, planning your outdoor activities in the morning or evening when the sun is not as strong will help too. I like to run. So when I go running in the summer, I try to run in the evening when it’s a little cooler. You can also check the UV Index to find out how strong the sun’s rays are in your area so you can plan accordingly for that day.

Them pesky skeeters…

If there is one thing I can’t stand its getting attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes when I’m trying to enjoy a nice summer evening outside. That’s why it’s important to make it harder for mosquitoes to breed in your backyard. If you have any standing water in your yard from birdbaths, wading pools, or even garden fountains, these are the perfect breeding environments for mosquitoes. Remove all standing water or replace it weekly to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in your yard. Check out the EPA website for more tips on repelling mosquitoes.

Fill ‘er up…

You know when you fill up the tank of your car or truck there’s always a gasoline smell? Did you know that those gasoline vapors are actually bad for you and the environment? What’s worse is that gasoline vapors increase in the summertime because of the hot and humid conditions. The next time that you refuel your car or truck, make sure that the gas cap is secure so you don’t let excess vapors into the air. Also, try not to refuel on ozone action days. If you must refuel on an ozone action day, do it in the morning or evening when the sun’s rays are not as strong.

Enjoy your summer!

About the author: Ashley McAvoy is an Intern with the Office of Web Communications for spring 2013. She is a double major in Environmental Studies and Hispanic Studies at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Bats: More than Tiny City Vampires

By Marcia Anderson

Bats have a reputation for being spooky or even dangerous, but they are some of the most beneficial animals to people. They are the most misunderstood and needlessly feared of the world’s creatures. Furthermore bats do not entangle themselves in hair as widely believed and they will not encounter people by choice but only in self-defense.

Very few species of bats are vampire or blood consuming. Out of the more than 1,100 different species of bats worldwide, there are only three species of vampire bats and none live in the United States. Vampire bats only live in tropical climates and typically feed on cattle, poultry or other livestock. Most North American bats have small teeth for eating insects and do not gnaw through wood or other building materials like rodents.

All of the NJ and NY bats are insectivores and they need to eat and drink every night. Their food requirements are well served by open grasslands and parks, where insects are abundant. They feed on a huge variety of night flying insects, including mosquitoes. A single little brown bat can eat 3,000 mosquito-sized insects per night.

Bats are essential to maintaining healthy ecosystems and economies, yet their populations are declining worldwide due to loss of roost trees, disturbance of dens, and outright persecution by man. Enjoy your bananas, mangos and guavas – and thank the bats that help to bring these fruits to your table. Some bats are primary pollinators for fruits and other produce and help to disperse seeds of plants vital for natural restoration of forests.

During the day they prefer to roost in tight crevices such as cracks in rocks, under exfoliating tree bark and in awnings of buildings. These locations provide protection from predators and stable temperatures. They also prefer roosting near open bodies of water. Bats can enter city buildings, especially near parks, through openings as small as one-half inch in diameter. Bats may roost in attics, soffits, louvers, chimneys and porches; under siding, eaves, roof tiles or shingles; and behind shutters. In stadiums and parking garages, bats sometimes roost in expansion joints between concrete beams.

Don’t panic. Bats are rarely aggressive, even if they’re being chased, but they may bite in self-defense if handled. As with any wild animal, bats should never be touched with bare hands. More

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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West Nile Virus and Reduction of Mosquito Habitats – Part 1

By Marcia Anderson

I have been following the “Worst Outbreak of West Nile Virus (WNV) since 1999” reports in newspapers and on the Internet for days. So far there are 1,118 reported cases and 41 deaths.  Companies have been hired to spray insecticide by plane over Dallas, Texas since August 16. The pyrethroid insecticide selected is said to kill adult mosquitoes by direct contact. In addition, New York City began ground-based spraying on August 24, also to protect people from West Nile Virus. However, spraying is only a temporary answer to the problem, as only adult mosquitoes are killed. Mosquito larvae still reside in bodies of water and will emerge as adults one to five days later.

Why is mosquito control important? About 1 percent of the people that contract WNV usually get either meningitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord, or encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. People with suppressed immune systems and older people are the most vulnerable to contracting the disease and there is no human vaccine for WNV.

Hungry mosquitoes are attracted to body warmth and exhalation of carbon dioxide. They also find their victims by sight and by chemical sensors. They are especially attuned to ammonia and lactic acid typical in human sweat. The sensors work best in humid air. Only the female mosquitoes require a blood meal which is necessary for making eggs. Did you know that women are bitten more often than men, as women have slightly higher body temperature than men?

What can you do to protect yourself? Follow the 4 Ds:

  1. Use an insect repellant for deterrent.
  2. Dress wearing long sleeves and long pants.
  3. Avoid being in mosquito prone areas around dusk and dawn.
  4. Make sure all standing water is drained.

The fact is that all mosquitoes need water to breed. Many mosquitoes living in urban and suburban settings prefer to breed in standing water rich in decomposing organic material and will not lay eggs in clear water. Dead leaves, grass clippings and algae, quickly begin to break down in moist habitats and produce an infusion that is highly attractive to the females. They are particularly abundant in areas where sewage leaks into drainage systems, catch basins and storm drains. Others will only lay eggs in clean water. The peak time some mosquitoes to bite is just following sunset and just before sunrise, so cover-up or use repellants if you are going to be outside at these times, however, there are some mosquitoes that are 24- hour feeders.

What else can you do? The best  non-chemical mosquito management approach is to reduce/eliminate breeding habitats through the following steps:

1. Identify locations and sizes of all stagnant water bodies, including basins, storm drains, blocked roof gutters, and all water retaining containers. These are all important mosquito larval habitats.

2. Remove or destroy domestic breeding sites. By eliminating all standing water and water collecting containers, you can reduce the number of mosquitoes in your neighborhood. Sites include discarded appliances, car parts, plastic bags, tarps, food containers, tires, pet water bowls left out for days,  saucers, potted plants, and birdbaths, kiddy pools, children’s play equipment left outside to collect water, and garbage cans and dumpsters without proper drainage or lids.

If you live in an area with swales, open stormwater culverts or trenches, they need to be maintained to prevent them from becoming filled with sediment and plant debris. This will cause ponding or puddles of water that may soon become a mosquito breeding habitat. Clogged gutters and flat roof tops with poor drainage are commonly overlooked mosquito breeding habitats.  Thus, if there is standing water close to you, that you cannot do anything about, please call 311 in New York City.

About the Author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Don’t Let Mosquitoes Ruin Your Summer

Haga clic en la imagen para unirse a la conversación en nuestro blog en español... ¡No olvide de suscribirse!

By Lina Younes

With this unrelenting heat and dry weather I didn’t think we would have a problem with mosquitoes in our area. However, it seems to me that there are unusual numbers of mosquitoes and other bugs this summer in spite of the limited rainfall in our region.

In fact, you do not need a heavy rainy season for mosquitoes to multiply. Mosquitoes can easily thrive without a nearby lake or pond. They just need stagnant water. Any container will do. Even a cap ful of water left untouched for less than a week can serve as an ideal breeding ground for numerous species of mosquitoes to proliferate. The female mosquito simply lays her eggs in the water that remains untouched in a ditch, a flower pot, a can, a bird bath or an abandoned tire. And in a couple of days, voila! Hundreds of mosquitoes are born to eagerly feast on us.

So what should we do to prevent the proliferation of mosquitoes? The most important thing is to remove any containers where they may live and breed.  Empty and change the water in bird baths, fountains, or wading pools every couple of days to destroy potential breeding areas. Clear rain gutters and eliminate old tires or other containers around the home which can accumulate water.

Once you’ve eliminated any potential habitats for mosquitoes, use insect repellents safely to protect yourself and your family. As with other pesticide products, EPA recommends that you read the label first and follow the directions on the label. Also, by avoiding outdoor activities during the peak hours for mosquito activities (from dusk to dawn), you may reduce the potential for a mosquito bite. These preventive measures will discourage some of these flying pests and creepy crawlers from using you as their next meal.

About the author: Lina Younes is the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. Among her duties, she’s responsible for outreach to Hispanic organizations and media. She spearheaded the team that recently launched EPA’s new Spanish website, www.epa.gov/espanol . She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. She’s currently the editor of EPA’s new Spanish blog, Conversando acerca de nuestro medio ambiente. Prior to joining the agency, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and an international radio broadcaster. She has held other positions in and out of the Federal Government.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Don’t Let Pests Spoil Your Outdoor Activities

As it starts to get warmer across the U.S. mainland, we’re beginning to plan more outdoor activities or just think of new ways to communicate with nature in the great outdoors.  Whether it’s gardening, swimming, hiking, fishing, or visiting our national parks, some of these outside activities might lead to some unwanted close encounters. I’m not talking about mountain lions, bears, wolves or snakes. I’m talking about other much smaller creatures—some creepy crawlers or flying insects. I know, I know…not all insects are bad. In fact, many invertebrates are actually good pollinators, like bees and butterflies. Others have a positive impact on the environment such as ladybugs and earthworms. The creepy crawlers I’m concerned about are those pests such as mosquitoes and ticks that can actually carry diseases. Those are the ones we want to avoid at all cost, if possible.

image of birdbath with standing waterGiven the unusually wet days we’ve been having in certain areas of the United States, we can anticipate a larger number of mosquitoes in urban and rural areas. A first piece of advice is to get rid of these flying pests with minimal use of chemicals? The most important thing you can do is remove their habitat (where they live and breed) in areas around your home. You have to eliminate standing water from rain gutters, old tires, toys, any open container where mosquitoes can breed. By the way, mosquitoes do not need a large quantity of water to breed and multiply. Did you know that over 150 mosquitoes can come out of a tablespoon of stagnant water? So, if you have bird baths or wading pools, please change the water at least once a week to prevent mosquito breeding. If you’re going to spend some time outdoors, use an EPA-registered mosquito repellent when necessary. Above all, read the label and follow directions closely. If there have been warnings of increased mosquito borne diseases in your area, such as the West Nile virus, check with your state or local health department for more information on mosquito control measures being taken where you live.

When enjoying the great outdoors, other biting pests such as ticks may carry Lyme disease. Personal protective measures are necessary, but repellents are effective as well. So, don’t let these pests spoil your vacation in the great outdoors.

About the author:  Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force.  Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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