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MOSQUITO SEASON: Protect yourselves from the sting of summer

June 18, 2014
By BOB PETCHER ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Now that rainy season is in full swing, it's time to watch out for those pesky, little bloodsuckers that feed off that type of weather and make there presence felt, especially at the dusk and dawn timeline.

First it was traffic and tourism season. Now, it's mosquito season!

While May through October is considered the "heart" of mosquito season, the rains of summer is what draws the mosquitoes out and provides a good foundation for mating season. Don't allow your property to become a mosquito breeding ground.

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Mosquito season is here and Mosquito Awareness Week is next week. Help Fort Myers Beach Mosquito Control keep this year's batches intact by removing standing water from any container in your yard.

"I can't stress dumping all your outdoor standing water no matter where it is. You have to look around," said Fort Myers Beach Mosquito Control Director Sharon Watson. "A lot of people forget about their little bucket they've left outside after mopping floors. It might be filled with rain water. There is always something there that may be breeding mosquitoes."

Mosquito Awareness Week is next week, running from June 22 through June 28. Each year, the American Mosquito Control Association aims to educates the general public about the significance of mosquitoes in their daily lives and the important service provided by mosquito control workers throughout the United States and worldwide.

Beach residents need to get the word out. Here is an outdoor to-do list provided by AMCA to help in the control process: eliminate water-filled containers; drill holes in the bottom of recycling containers; clear roof gutters of debris; clean pet water dishes regularly; check and empty children's toys; repair leaky outdoor faucets; change the water in bird baths at least once a week; canoes and other boats should be turned over; avoid water collecting on pool covers; empty water collected in tarps around

the yard or on woodpiles; and plug tree holes.

Also, be neighborly by informing those that live close to you if you detect they may have potential mosquito nesting areas. Some of your neighbors may have left for the summer already.

"Everybody says it's not coming from our yard. If we have any rain, and your neighbor's yard hatches the mosquito, that mosquito will fly the water to your yard," said Watson. "Go around your whole yard and take a look at your neighbor's yard."

Water can collect in the strangest or unknowable places. The FMBMC director recently had to clean out her table umbrella holder.

"That's water that you don't think about," she said.

Each year, 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. The business is celebrating its 65th year.

The Beach gets visited by two types of mosquitoes (salt water and fresh water). While there has been little mosquito activity so far, expect the adult female mosquitoes to be out in full force by laying their eggs in stagnant water soon.

"We haven't had the hatch-offs from the salt marshes yet," FMBMC Director Sharon Watson said last Monday. "We are actually quiet all over Lee County."

Watson, who has been the local director since 2006 and employed at the facility for nearly 20 years, gets weekly reports from Lee County Mosquito Control. She 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.

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 along with Watson that are certified to carry a Public Health Pest Control license.

FMB Mosquito Control may be small but they are battle-tested. The business has 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 patrolling 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."

Factors such as rain and winds will determine when salt-marsh mosquitoes begin to have a stinging effect.

"Every five to six years we get a really bad time with salt-march mosquitoes," said Watson. "But, you never know when that will happen. It's nature."

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."

The Beach 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."

Watson did report that the Miami-Dade area has been getting a new mosquito disease. It is called Chikungunya or ChikV for short.

"So far, that mosquito hasn't been found in our area," she said.

Pet owners are warned to make sure their pets are up to date on their heart worm treatments. Dogs and cats do get stung as well.

So, keep your property clean of the too-friendly mosquito. The point cannot be brought up enough.

"Please check your yards when it rains," said Watson. "A lot of people say they've check their yards, but it rains often here, so you have to be on top of it."

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 governed 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.



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