The recent rains sure make the mosquito population bloom

Phil Goodman, Florida Keys Mosquito Control District 2 Commissioner, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on with mosquitos.

The rain from yesterday sure keeps Mosquito Control hopping.

Goodman said, “Our inspectors will be out to today looking at all of this. I guess over the last several weeks, we’ve seen just about every type of incident that can cause mosquito breeding. We had a pretty rainy winter, but then this led to the last several weeks was pretty dry. But during this dry spell we had, particularly in the Ocean Reef area and the Upper Keys, Key Largo, we had a lot of westerly wind, which blew a lot of mosquitoes from the Everglades, which took a lot of effort to get that under control, because sometimes when the winds are high, we’re not able to treat as effectively or as often as we like, and then last week, we had a lot of high tides that really caused a lot of mosquito breeding. We had most of that under control in the county and yesterday, we had the big rain. So this will keep us busy now. We’re going out within the normal cycle of what we do, treating with larvicide to kill the larvae and the adult mosquitoes that escape. So mosquito control is in full swing right now. Most of their real problem area that we’ve seen recently was with the salt marsh mosquito, which is the nuisance mosquito here but we also saw a rise particularly in Key Largo, and Key West, a rise in the number of Aedes aegypti. So we’ve been treating, the special treatments for the Aedes aegypti and then the treatments for the salt marsh mosquito, both airily and by truck. So everything’s in full swing here and mosquito control is working hard. I can tell you.”

Different types of mosquitos require different types of treatment.

Goodman explained, “Aedes aegypti, we have a completely different larvicide and adulticide chemical treatments for the Aedes aegypti as we do the salt marsh and other mosquitoes. One of the reasons is the Aedes aegypti mosquito has become resistant to a lot of the better pesticides that we’re using. So we have really continued to change our treatment, trying to optimize to reduce the number of Aedes aegypti mosquito. This has evolved into two different completely different chemical treatments.”

Aedes aegypti brings Dengue fever and there have been no cases in the Keys currently.

Goodman said, “Dengue fever is growing worldwide and has for the last several years, throughout the Caribbean, South America, Central America, Asia, Africa, they’re all really getting increases, a lot of epidemics around the world. I have a friend in Paris and he told me recently that they even sprayed for mosquitoes for Dengue fever in Paris. That’s the first time they’ve done that for a long time. Puerto Rico is under now a department of health emergency status. I think their Dengue fever rate is up 500% over what’s normal there. Miami Dade continues to have cases this year. They’re continuing under the mosquito borne illness alert from the Department of Health. I think this is the fourth year straight for that. It’s all around us. So far, we’ve really been able to keep it out of the Keys. We’re working hard. We have a very proactive process here. So far it is working but we are continually under high alert. This is really our number one job right now is to keep this out of the Keys and if it does get into the Keys to get it out as quickly as possible. So far, we’ve been able to keep it out though.”

What are some new technologies being used?

Goodman said, “The chemicals that we use, particularly the pesticides, to kill the adult mosquitoes, are becoming less and less effective against the Aedes aegypti mosquito. They’re becoming resistant. So these treatments just don’t really work anymore. Right now we have a pretty good system that chemically that works mainly on larvicide for the Aedes aegypti. But when you have five, seven days wind and rain event in the Keys and we can’t treat like we would like to treat, these numbers can really go from being under good control to bad control. So we need some new technology. We’ve been looking for years now as some of these bio chemical pesticides, and one of them is Oxitec, which is genetic engineering, which we’ve evaluated it for the past three years. Now the EPA has all our data and they’re looking to approve the product, probably will not be until next year. Wolbachia is another one of these bio pesticides that we have tested here and other people have tested. It’s also gone through the EPA process, and it uses a bacteria, it’s quite different than the Oxitec. The Wolbachia, you have to release adult mosquitoes, whereas the Oxitec, you put out eggs and the eggs develop into adults on their own in nature. Both of them have pluses and minuses, they are quite different. Both of them are designed to reduce the number of Aedes aegypti, which will reduce the chances of Dengue fever. We’ve been following Wolbachia through the EPA process, it was just recently approved for use by the EPA. Now it is going through the same process in Florida to get Florida approval, which we don’t think will take very long, and we do have plans and have been working on plans to use that product this year. Hopefully, if it gets through Florida in time and we are able to get things set up because this just happened recently that it was approved. So we’ve been expecting it to be approved for a long time. So we’re excited about the chance to use this because this will give us another weapon. It’ll take several years of using these products to really find out how best to use those within our environment here and to optimize on it and to see if it’s a tool that that really helps us. We’re encouraged that both of them are, but we’ll just have to wait and see.”

House Bill 7013 concerns special taxing districts. What impact will this have on the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District?

Goodman said, “It will not have very much because it really got changed a lot through the legislative process, House Bill 7013 and followed by a corresponding Senate bill passed, but they were modified, we were very active in getting this modified because how this started was there’s I think 1800 special districts in Florida. We have some in mosquito control. We have some in the fire districts and water treatment and forestry, there’s a number of these. I think in several of the counties, there were a few the local legislators didn’t think were very effective. So they put in this broad bill to impact all special districts. So what we had to do at mosquito control, they had us all evaluated, and it was a lengthy process, took several years. We came out very good. Everything that they found about us that we were doing a great job and really an example of for the rest of follow. Now special districts, all the commissioners, they’re elected, have term limits of three terms and our board put in three terms a number of years ago, so we already had that. The only other thing that a little bit affected us was we have a strategic plan. We put this strategic plan on our website and follow up. What this did was allowed us, they wanted all special districts to put on their website, their strategic plan and their plans for improvement. So we were kind of used as a model for what they came up with and decided. We were very pleased. We’re always happy to be evaluated, to let people know how we’re doing and also maybe learn things that we can do better, but in this case, I think we came out really good. So this will not have really much impact on us but it will have impact on special districts throughout the state.”

Will this be a heavier than average summer here for mosquito populations, given all the water events we’ve been having?

Goodman said, “The rain is the wild card for mosquito control and for mosquito breeding, the more rain you have the more mosquitoes and most of the predictions that I’ve seen this year are for a wetter than normal summer, which will mean more mosquitoes than normal. We know that the sea level is rising here in the Keys. We can see this for the last 100 years, s gradual increase and this also makes the tides more susceptible for breeding mosquitoes, and you’ll have more tidal areas where mosquitoes can lay their eggs, and then when the high tides come in, they will breed. So I think it will be, but we see ups and downs in mosquito control from year to year. Some years we really are inundated. other years are less. There’s always a lot of mosquitoes here. So I don’t think many people will see a lot of difference. But, we are prepared for a really heavy season, just like we always are. We’re hoping that the population won’t see much difference. We hopefully can take up the slack. But, we do depend on our citizens to go around their properties, dumping water on their property so that their properties are not breeding sites. We’ve got over 1,000 known breeding sites in the Keys, many of them on offshore islands, not just the 30 islands that we live on here. So we hope that our citizens will help us control mosquitoes breeding on their property and if they need help, please contact us. The best way to contact us this is now is with our app, you can go to your app store and get the Florida Keys Mosquito Control app and you can place service requests, you can find out when we’re spraying in your area, just about all of our activities are on there. So that’s really a great way to keep up with it. We’re always interested to hear from the public and if you put in service requests, we try to be everywhere but we can’t be everywhere at once, so you’re also the eyes and ears of our population here, certainly assist us and we depend on them. We appreciate it.”