They may not be flying yet, but that are certainly growing. Mosquitoes, that is! The mosquito breeding season has begun, as has the Fulton County Conservation District's monitoring efforts. Through an agreement with the state Department of Environmental Protection, (DEP) the Conservation District will be collecting adult and larval mosquitoes throughout Fulton County from now until the fall and sending the samples to a DEP lab. These mosquitoes will be tested for the presence of West Nile virus.
West Nile virus is a mosquitoborne disease that can, in rare instances, cause encephalitis, a brain inflammation. Mosquitoes acquire the disease and spread the virus after they feed on infected birds and then bite people, other birds and animals. It is not spread by person-to-person contact, and there is no evidence that people can get the virus by handling infected animals. Mosquitoes are also known to carry and spread Eastern equine encephalitis, LaCrosse encephalitis , St. Louis encephalitis and they can transmit canine heartworm to dogs.
Only female mosquitoes bite. Most require a "blood meal" in order to develop eggs to make more mosquitoes. Most female mosquitoes lay eggs on standing water. Stagnant ponds, ditches and wetlands are favorites. However, studies have shown that some mosquito varieties prefer to breed in "containers" often found around your home. These containers include birdbaths, flowerpots, old tires, buckets and even water holding hoof prints in barnyards.
The easiest way to reduce the mosquito population in your yard is to eliminate standing water around your home. Either get rid of, or empty frequently, anything that collects water. Tires, which easily collect rainwater, are a common breeding site for some mosquito species. An easy way to reduce mosquito breeding sites is to recycle old tires.
On Saturday May 9 from 8 a.m. to noon, you can take those unwanted tires that may be on your property to your local township municipal building for recycling. However, Brush Creek Township will not be participating this year, and some townships may be charging a small fee to cover their costs.
Other preventative measures are to clean up cans, buckets, flowerpots, even toys - anything that could collect water. Items that you want to hold water, such as birdbaths and kiddie pools, should be emptied and changed frequently. Gutters and drains should be cleared of debris so that water doesn't pool and offer a breeding site. On farms, tires are often used to hold down plastic on silage. To keep the tires from becoming mosquito breeding sites, holes should be drilled in the tires so any rainwater can drain out easily. Anything you do to prevent water from pooling or standing on your property will reduce available mosquito breeding areas.
If you have areas that hold water, but you can't or don't want to drain them (such as rain barrels, ornamental ponds, etc.), use a Bti (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis) product like Mosquito Dunks, floating tablets which release Bti slowly. Bti is a live bacteria that is deadly to mosquito larvae, but harmless to people, pets, aquatic life and plants. Always follow label directions carefully.
For the next few months, you might see mosquito surveillance equipment placed by the Conservation District. (See photo.) One type of trap consists of a black tub with a "tacklebox" sitting on top and clearly labeled as being part of the West Nile Surveillance Program. Another looks like a small drink cooler with a small net and plastic can connected to it. Please do not disturb these collection devices. This equipment is being used to help protect the health of Fulton County citizens.
The Conservation District is also serving as an information and collection site for dead birds. West Nile virus can be fatal to birds and dead birds are used to monitor for the presence of West Nile. If you find fresh (less than 48 hours old) dead crows, raptors or blue jays, you can call the Conservation District to determine if the bird is a candidate for testing.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding the West Nile Surveillance Program, or West Nile virus in general, please contact Greg Reineke at the Conservation District (717-485-3547, ext. 120).