Keeping the mosquito population down keeps residents safe

With the heat and the rain comes the mosquito and when the health of citizens in the Florida Keys is at stake, mosquito population control is a must.

Phil Goodman, County Commissioner of District 2 and board chair of the Mosquito Control Board of Monroe County, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to discuss efforts to control mosquitos.

Every year when the first rains hit in the Keys, the mosquitos pop up pretty quickly.

Goodman said, “It takes us a week or so to catch up, which we did and for the last month the mosquitos have been pretty well under control. We are controlling the mosquitos about 80% with larvicide, which is a preventive measure. We’re trying to stay ahead of it.”

The larvicide is being sprayed by the helicopters to get rid of the mosquito larvae. Occasionally the helicopters will need to spray adulticide, but it’s very rare.

Adulticide is normally dispersed from trucks.

Goodman said, “We do now have the capability of dispersing larvicide from trucks, so it’s a combination.”

Miami-Dade County has had its first locally transmitted case of dengue fever, a mosquito-borne illness.

Monroe County is working with Oxitec to address the mosquito issue in the Keys.

Goodman said, “There’s three parts to the trials that we’re doing this year. The first and largest one started in May. It’s going well.”

Essentially, mosquitos are released in the middle Keys and three other control areas, which will reduce the Aedes aegypti mosquito population.

Goodman said, “We’ve already started to see the beginning of a decline in the Aedes aegypti mosquito population when you compare the numbers in the control area versus the release areas. We’re expecting that trend to continue.”

The second part of the Oxitec trials began in July and will continue through October. This is a single release point.

The third part will begin in late August.

The Environmental Protection Agency is interested in the evaluation of the project and there will be a lot of data collected.

On average right now about 250,000 of the Oxitec mosquitos are being released each week. The total will be a little less than 7 million mosquitos released.

The Oxitec project is targeting the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which harbor diseases that the county wants to keep out of the Keys because the illnesses don’t have vaccinations or therapeutic treatments to keep the citizens safe.

The only way to control the disease is to control the mosquito and the chemicals that have been used in the past are losing their effectiveness. The mosquitoes have become resistant to them.

When the Oxitec male mosquitos are released, they will mate with the wild females and only males survive and no females survive after the mating.

Goodman said, “You continue to significantly reduce the female population which eventually significantly reduces or eliminates that entire mosquito from the region that you’re working on.”

The official trials will end in October, but the sites will continue to be monitored. Next year, additional research projects will be planned.

Goodman said, “We’ll be working under the experimental use permit that goes through next year.”

If Oxitec gets commercialization of the project, the county can begin to decide whether to move forward with the technology. The current Oxitec project is not costing the taxpayers a dime. It’s all funded by Oxitec.

The next webinar will be July 26 at 5 p.m. It will focus on the effects of climate change and how that affects the mosquito population worldwide and in south Florida.

For more information, click here:

Goodman said, “These webinars have been very well-received by the community and a lot of information given out.”

The Mosquito Control Board suggests citizen remain diligent against mosquitos.

Goodman said, “Dump all the standing water. Protect yourself if you go out in the evenings with repellant. Wear long sleeves when you can, light-colored clothing. Mosquito Control here in the Florida Keys, we’re doing everything we can to eliminate this mosquito, but it’s not an easy task and so we ask the community to really work with us to help us keep these numbers down.”