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CRITTER CONTROL: Help prevent mosquito growth

July 10, 2013
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Rain, rain and more rain. Ya, it's good for scorched brown lawns, but rain in containers also provides a breeding ground for mosquitos.

After last week's torrential rains, experts say adult female mosquitoes are expected to be out in full force by laying their eggs in stagnant water.

The Fort Myers Beach Mosquito Control is working behind the scenes by investigating and educating but mainly preventing mosquito activity from getting any worse by looking for the leggy winged insect's larvae beforehand. You can help the preventative action by different measures to help make your outdoor summer activity more pleasant.

Article Photos

Mosquitos can breed in any standing water, like this bird bath after the recent rain.

"We haven't had the hatch-offs from the salt marshes yet," FMBMC Director Sharon Watson said last Wednesday. "Right now, they are breeding because of all the water on the ground."

Watson, who has been the local director since 2006 and employeed at the facility for nearly 19 years, stated it would take a week before eggs hatch in the fresh rain water and before an onslaught of mosquitos could potentially impact on the Beach. That activity could start as soon as today.

Mosquitoes flourish in any puddle of water they can find. Property owners are unintentionally breeding their own.

"Everyone still needs to go out and check for containers," she said. "Eavestroughs might be flooded with debris, water could be collected in bird baths or there could be an old pond in your back yard. It could even be a small cup that you forgot about that is breeding mosquitoes or an unsecured rain barrel with hundreds and hundreds of mosquito larvae. Whatever contains water in your yard, they will find it."

Beach Mosquito Control sprays adulticide when necessary from dusk to dawn, only when winds are less than 10 miles per hour and it is not raining. Besides Watson, the three-person control unit involves Spray Inspector Supervisor George Rodriguez and Spray Inspector Michael Mills - two men certified to carry a Public Health Pest Control license.

"The guys have been here a long time and are really, really good at finding breeding grounds in areas along the Beach," said Watson. "They are constantly looking for breeding grounds that might be out there. The other day they found larvae in an old stool that was lying around with just a little bit of water in it. That was the first larvae we have found this year."

With more than 64 years of experience, FMB Mosquito Control may be small but they are battle-tested. They have been around more than half a dozen years longer than Lee County Mosquito Control, which is regarded as having one of the best facilities in the world.

While Lee County takes care of the Back Bay by helicopter, FMB Mosquito Control is patroling the streets of Estero Island in trucks. Technological applicators, such as cold-fusion atomizers, offer a

kinder, gentler methodology once the mosquito reaches the adult stage.

"We are much more efficient now with updated equipment," said Watson. "The mist and chemicals are more environmentally friendly, and the atomizer has a flow meter for regulation."

While May through October is considered the "heart" of mosquito season, the unofficial season could run through December or January due to the climate conditions. During that full time, you can expect two types of mosquitoes (salt water and fresh water) on the Beach.

Just don't expect FMBMC to eradicate all of the blood-sucking critters. Emphasis is on the word "control" in the Beach businesses' title. The object is to try to control them by reducing the numbers that they produce in the area.

"Hence, our job is to make it unfavorable to lay their eggs which should kill off the next generation," Rodriguez said during a previous interview. "We have the luxury of being a very close-knit community in a sense that there is not a lot of changes, geographically speaking. In this particular facility, we can actually put our foot in almost every square foot of our coverage area. We know the hot spots for them."

Watson said the reported larger mosquito that has been on national news will most likely remain in pasture lands.

"I don't think we will have that problem here," she said.

In her 19 years employeed at FMBMC, she also has not seen any risk of exposure to West Nile virus, St. Louis Encephalitis or Eastern Equine Encephalitis.

"We hope it stays that way," Watson said. "The island has been pretty free of any disease-carrying mosquito."

Pet owners are warned to make sure their pets are up to date on their heartworm treatments.

To help in mosquito control, Beach residents are reminded to do their best to remove any standing water on their property. Also, trimming trees, schrubs and bushes will eliminate natural resting places for mosquitoes.

"When they become adults, that is where they tend to rest," said Watson. "They are there because they found a place to hide."

For more information, call the Fort Myers Beach Mosquito Control District at 463-6350.

The life of a mosquito

There are four stages of a mosquito's life cycle: egg; larva; pupa; and adult.

Mosquitoes can lay dormant for up to seven years. The female can lay their eggs upon layers and layers and layers. Mosquito eggs that are laid in standing water can hatch in just a day or two, but more likely in 5-7 days. Some can lay un-hatched for weeks or even months until they are covered with water.

Ochlerotatus Taeniorhynehus is the scientific name for the more common Beach mosquito. It is known as the black salt-marsh mosquito and has a flight path up to 50 miles, while being an all-day flyer, very adaptable and breeding in salt and fresh water.

History of FMB Mosquito Control

Fort Myers Beach Mosquito Control dates back to May 27, 1949. A petition was signed and approved on showing a desire to establish a mosquito control district to cover Estero Island and San Carlos Island.

On July 6, 1949, at a regular meeting of the Lee County Commissioners, a Notice of Referendum election was followed and the district was given its name. Six days later, Fort Myers Beach Mosquito Control District was formed. William I. Tooley, Jewel Van Slyke and Travis Cowart were elected commissioners. The following day, FMB Mosquito Control held its first meeting.

Currently, the Fort Myers Beach Mosquito Control is goverened by three commissioners. They are Joanne Semmer, Alta Whipple and Henry Rothenberg.

Two types of mosquitoes

In this area, there are two types of mosquitoes. Freshwater mosquitoes require standing water to lay their eggs. If the amount of rainfall does not allow for water to stand for several days, the population is essentially kept in check.

The salt marsh mosquito, however, deposits its eggs in the ground and, as the tide comes in, the eggs hatch.

The coastal areas experience the worst of the salt marsh mosquito.

Preventive action includes the 5Ds:

- Dusk and Dawn: Be careful and mindful outdoors at those times because mosquitoes are most active.

- Dress: To protect against bites, dress so your skin is covered with clothing.

- Drain: Empty containers and drain stagnant water.

- DEET: Protect bare skin and clothing with DEET mosquito repellent.


Eliminating mosquito breeding sites

- Clean out eaves, troughs, and gutters

- Remove old tires, or drill holes in those used for playground equipment to allow them to drain

- Turn over or remove plastic pots

- Pick up broken, unused or discarded toys

- Pick up all beverage containers and cups

- Check tarps on boats or other equipment that may collect water in pockets or indentations

- Pump out bilges on boats

- Replace water in birdbaths and pet or other animal-feeding dishes at least once a week

- Change water in the bottom of plant containers, including hanging plants, at least once a week

- Remove vegetation or obstructions in drainage dishes that prevent the flow of water

- Fix dripping faucets that create pools of water



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