Health: Mosquitoes more than just a pest

By Debbie Howes Fleming Published:

 

Mosquitoes have been around for 100 million years and there are more than 3,000 different species of mosquitoes worldwide. Each species has different characteristics, evolving as they have successfully adapted to climates that range in extremes from the arctic to the equator.

The mosquito requires an indigenous blood host that also varies by species. Some prefer frogs, some mammals and some prefer birds to use as a blood source.

Only the female mosquito draws blood. Blood is not food for the mosquito, nor are humans the primary source of blood. The blood is a protein needed to produce eggs. One female mosquito can lay 100 to 300 eggs at a time.

This adds up to 1,000 to 3,000 offspring in a female’s lifetime. When not producing eggs, the female mosquito, along with the male, prefers to feed on flower nectar to blood. 

The red, itchy bite mark left is actually an allergic reaction to mosquito saliva. Not only is the bite an irritation, it may be dangerous. Worldwide, mosquito borne illnesses kill more people than any other single factor. Mosquitoes can be carriers of malaria and yellow fever.

In the United States, mosquitoes transmit West Nile Virus, St. Louis encephalitis, and Eastern Equine Encephalitis. Human diseases are not the only diseases spread by mosquitoes. They may transmit heartworms to dogs and cats. 

According to the Kentucky Department of Public Health (DPH), there are 52 species of mosquitoes in Kentucky. There is no single repellent that is effective against all species. Mosquitoes breed in standing water and our backyards are ideal breeding places. The best way to prevent the spread of disease is to stop mosquitoes before they start. 

They are attracted to stagnant water found in old tires, ponds, birdbaths, toys, flowerpots and any other containers holding water. They lay hundreds of eggs that hatch within a week. 

This year, the people who study insects expect the mosquito problem to be especially difficult. Cool, wet springs such as the one we experienced are ideal for mosquito breeding. To ensure that your yard does not become a breeding ground, DPH suggests draining any container holding water, changing the water in birdbaths, wading pools and pet bowls on a regular basis and fill in any puddles in and around your yard.

Mosquitoes love gutters. Keeping them cleaned and unclogged will ensure proper drainage. Repair or replace window and door screens and fix any leaking outdoor faucets and sprinklers. 

Mosquitoes find their blood host by detecting carbon dioxide, heat and moisture. Carbon dioxide is produced when we breathe out. If you are warm and sweaty, you will most likely become a mosquito magnet. The worst time to be outdoors is before dawn, at dusk and early evening. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises humans to wear protective clothing such as long sleeve shirts and long pants, shoes and socks when outdoors. In addition, use an insect repellant that contains DEET. Use repellants according to the label directions, reapplying as prescribed. 

For more information about insect control, contact the environmental services team at the Franklin County Health Department at 564-7382.

 

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