A bad bug year may be in the offing, and Health Departments are jumping out in front of the issue.
With recent news about mosquito-borne illnesses and a growing list of maladies attributed to ticks, there is much to consider, especially when a heavy bug season may be just around the corner.
Alpha gal to Zika, Chikungunya to West Nile, Diethyl-meta-toluamide to Picaradin, those who enjoy the outdoors from the patio to the beaches may do well to expand their bug-related vocabularies.
Wet and very cold is what we look for, and we really didn’t have that this winter,” said entomologist Rick Grantham with Oklahoma State University. Ticks that were plentiful last year have the conditions to repeat a good breeding season this summer.
Mosquito reproduction is a different story. It’s impossible to predict, but they always are plentiful in some areas.
Mosquito season runs from May to September, with the worst of the lot emerging in June. But people can take backyard preventative measures now.
The best mosquito prevention is to eliminate places where they can reproduce. Mosquitoes can reproduce in anything that holds water for five to seven days, even shallow pools.
Mosquito eggs can last months on dry ground and can hatch in a small amount of water. You get a rainfall and two hours later they’re hatched.
Koi ponds and well-kept landscape water features and birdbaths are fine if they are kept clean or have a good filtration system.
Solutions to problem areas might be as simple as using a couple shovelfuls of fill dirt or as complicated as creating a new landscape drainage system.
Residents who live near shallow-water depressions or are concerned about other water-holding areas can call the health department.
They can go out and take a look at it, it may be a place that they will apply some larvicide.
One mosquito of particular interest is the Culex and its subspecies, which are known carriers for West Nile virus. They like to reproduce in warm, stagnant, smelly water.
Aedes mosquitos are smaller, black-and-white, mosquitoes that are aggressive daytime biters. They like clean water and they are capable of carrying the Zika and Chikungunya.
However, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns, “There is a risk that the virus will be imported to new areas by infected travelers.” There is always the potential for dengue fever and malaria as well.
As information spreads about tick- and mosquito-borne illnesses, people are becoming more sophisticated in their prevention methods, according to a major retailer with a growing share in the insect repellent market.
“We have seen incredible growth the past two to three years. We are in major retailers REI, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Academy, and it’s one of the top-reviewed products on Amazon,” Sawyer Products spokesman Patrick Hurst said of the company’s Permethrin spray, which is used to treat clothing rather than sprayed on the skin.
Sawyer also is an early and large U.S. distributor of picaridin-based repellents. Popular in Europe, it was typically blended in a 5 percent solution.
“What was learned is you need 20 percent for the more aggressive mosquitoes here in the U.S.,” he said.
The good old-fashioned ways of avoiding bugs still work as well, including wearing light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and pants instead of shorts in the summer and tucking those pants into your socks when walking near the woods or in areas of deep grass. DEET-based repellents, of course, are still the gold-standard insect repellents.
And of course when you get home you need to do ‘the check’ and make sure you don’t have any ticks on you, and if you do, remove them without leaving any portion of the body in the skin.