The heat of summer is fast approaching, and with it comes the potential threat of mosquito borne viruses including the much publicized Zika virus. Threats of Zika are becoming harder to ignore and researchers are especially concerned that many areas in the United States including Texas have experienced some of the warmest winter months on record. While we continue to experience a moist humid spring, entomologists are increasingly concerned that we are building up for an optimal environment that will allow mosquitoes to breed and reproduce in numbers far larger than what were initially predicted.
Mosquitoes have two basic needs to survive; warm weather and standing water sources in which to breed and spawn eggs. According to entomologists, months of notably mild temperatures have increased the reproduction rate of the yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) to numbers that far exceed initial estimations. The yellow fever mosquito is one of the primary carriers of Zika virus along with other vector borne viruses and diseases. Researchers have discovered that the warmer weather has caused a season that is notable accelerated. Cooler weather would have stunted some of the larvae and stopped it from developing into adult mosquitoes. The fact that some of the eggs are already weeks ahead of production is especially alarming.
The mosquito-borne Zika virus has been associated with and recently confirmed to cause birth defects such as microcephaly. The virus has also been confirmed as being transmitted sexually through infected males. All of these confirmed factors along with the many unknown variables regarding transmission have health officials braced for the worst. While temperature plays a large role in the survival of the offspring of the yellow fever mosquito so does rainfall.
Should Texas experience a very dry summer season it may yet keep mosquito populations at more manageable levels. According to the Department of Environmental Protection which facilitates the mosquito control commission, mosquitoes need standing water to reproduce and lay eggs, so less rainfall may keep mosquito populations at bay.
Both State and County officials are urging home and business owners to be conscious of and eliminate standing water sources from around their property.
The yellow fever mosquito has adapted to co-exist in a human environment and will lay eggs in bird baths, pet bowls and unused planters and discarded tires.
• Experts recommend removing standing water sources including tires, kid’s toys, wading pools and even items as small as bottle caps. Remove and discard completely, store appropriately or keep items flipped over or turned on their sides.
• If you are covering or storing items such as firewood or an outdoor grill, make sure the covering is pulled tight. If not water can pool and become trapped; allowing mosquitoes the opportunity to breed. If the covering cannot be pulled tight, remove it and allow the water to drain and the cover to dry completely before replacing.
• Trees and plants planted close to your property provide the perfect environment to house mosquitoes. Stagnant water along with organic materials such as decaying leaves provide mosquitoes with the necessary items to breed and survive. Experts recommend keeping your lawn trimmed and any trees or scrubs cut back to remove as many opportunities as possible for mosquitoes to breed.