As if a pandemic isn’t enough to handle for 2020, now the East Side Mosquito Abatement District has identified a brand new threat to the area — the yellow fever mosquito has landed in Modesto, expanding its range to Stanislaus County.
The new mosquito species, Aedes aegypti, was trapped in Modesto in July and is in the same vector as the Zika, Dengue, Chikungunya viruses.
This new mosquito as, unlike other Aedes mosquitoes that grow in pastures, grows in small containers within residential areas and often inside homes. It exclusively bites on people and does so during daytime.
While it may be disturbing to some to discover a new mosquito species buzzing around potentially carrying a dangerous virus, residents may have noticed the sheer volume of the pesky blood-suckers swarming unsuspecting hosts the minute they stepped outside.
“The heavy volume coincided with the shaking of almond trees,” shared Dr. J. Wakoli Wekesa, District Manager/Entomologist for the East Side Mosquito Abatement District.
In case you thought you were imagining the surge of mosquitos, you weren’t — the hungry mosquito population had, indeed, exploded, causing aggressive swarming at area parks and anywhere near water.
It’s a problem every year that keeps the East Side Mosquito Abatement District fielding calls and sending out abatement teams to treat trouble areas.
According to Dr. Wekesa, the District has a proactive program of conducting mosquito surveillance – trapping adults and monitoring abundance of larvae and adult mosquitoes in the area so that they can act before there is a major mosquito problem. Surveillance is conducted once a week, the mosquitoes trapped are identified and tested for West Nile virus. The other mosquito control program consists of operations, involving two technicians, one focused on finding above ground breeding sources and applying larvicides to control them before they hatch, and the other is focused underground with one technician conducting curb rigging operations to control mosquitoes in underground storm drains, channels and swales in parks, roadside ditches, and road underground systems.
“Once in a while when adult mosquitoes increase in the neighborhoods, especially from nearby orchards the district conducts adulticides sprays to kill adult mosquitoes so folks are not bitten in town,” Dr. Wekesa explained. “We also have two airplanes that the District uses to spray open fields on the outskirts of town to alleviate biting pressure on folks.”
Spraying larvicide is an ongoing process to keep mosquito populations low.
“This has been a tough year for all of us and particularly residents of our county and surrounding counties,” Dr. Wekesa admitted.
In order to control mosquito infestations, it’s important to remove any standing water to avoid providing optimal breeding grounds.
“Mosquitoes require standing water to grow, if there is no standing water there are no mosquitoes. So, anything that people can do to reduce standing water to no more than three days will for sure improve our quality of life, greatly,” Dr. Wekesa said. “Because of our agriculture that heavily relies on irrigation water, such water often standing for weeks on end creates a major unnatural mosquito breeding source. The Mosquito Abatement Law gives the district the remedy of abating such property owners, abatement creates penalty on those properties producing mosquitoes. The remedy has never been used before, however as the District faces increasing challenges of protecting its residents such approach may become the viable, last resort option.”
Individual residents can proactively remove containers, broken chairs, boats and other items that may hold water. Clean and maintain swimming pools, and similarly maintain sprinklers.
For more information on mosquito abatement or to report an infestation, call East Side Mosquito Abatement at (209) 522-4098.