I’m sure that most of you have seen or heard on the news about the Zika virus and mosquitoes. Zika is the latest in a long line of mosquito borne diseases that have affected the residents of Florida. Zika is a virus that is native to West Africa and Uganda and has spread to different tropical regions of the world. At the time of this writing there have been over 180 confirmed cases of Zika virus in Florida; but because many patients show no symptoms of the virus, there is no clear idea of exactly how many people have been infected. All of these cases have been contracted overseas, which means that there have been no confirmed cases of someone being bitten by a mosquito here in Florida and contracting the virus. The best way for all of us to avoid Zika is through prevention and controlling the population of the types of mosquitoes that are capable of transmitting this virus. Both Hernando County Mosquito Control and UF/IFAS Extension are involved in public education and outreach to inform residents of the safest and most effective ways to protect themselves and others in the community.
There are two species of mosquito that can vector this virus in Hernando County, the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti and the Asian tiger mosquito Aedes albopictus. These insects are known as ‘container mosquitoes’ because they are able to lay eggs and breed in as little as a tablespoon of water.
The most obvious way to reduce the risks of being infected with any mosquito borne disease is to reduce the numbers of mosquitos on your property. The best place to start is to dump any standing water in your yard. This can be found in the trays under flower pots, inside old tires and aluminum cans, bird baths, inside plants that hold water such as bromeliads, and even inside the hoses you attach to rain gutter downspouts. Tarps that cover boats or anything else can collect water, Basically, anything that will hold water in your yard will give these mosquitoes a nice home to raise their young. The species of mosquitoes that are capable of spreading Zika and other diseases are perfectly happy living and breeding in developed areas in our standing water puddles, but we can have a real impact on their numbers just through prevention.
Using mosquito repellants when you are outside is a good way to avoid getting bitten. Wearing protective clothing and avoiding areas where mosquito activity is high are also good ideas year round. The Centers for Disease Control provides a list of mosquito repellants with effective EPA registered active ingredients, such as DEET, picaridin, and oil of lemon eucalyptus that provide long- lasting protection. And of course if you have any other questions about mosquitoes, other insects or lawn and garden questions, feel free to contact UF/IFAS Extension in Hernando County at 352-754-4433.