With all the rain in the Keys it’s important to watch for mosquitoes

Phil Goodman, board chair of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about the mosquitoes. 

Rain is always a factor with mosquitoes  

Goodman said, “Rain is a wildcard and mosquito control. The more rain, the more mosquitoes and in the last week we have hundreds of sites up and down the Keys where we keep rain gauges and we we recorded between three and 14 inches in some areas. The Upper Keys had more, so there was a lot of rain. June has been a very busy month for us and continues. Before last week, we had treated about 10,000 acres in June, the week before and this past week week, we treated about an additional 4,000 acres since this rain, but the rain and the wind also hampers some of our efforts. So we’re a little bit behind right now. But we’re trying to catch up. We had three helicopters up Saturday, people probably saw them out and about working and trying to get caught up after this rain. Before we had had two aerial adulticide missions, which are the first ones that we had had this year, one in the Upper Keys and one in the Lower Keys for the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes and then we had a lot of aerial larvicide missions because of high tide. So far in June, we’ve seen a little bit of everything and we’re working hard right now to get called up. The wind is up today, too, so that’s going to hamper some of our efforts but we have other ways that we’re doing this, going in and hand treating certain areas and we’ll do everything we can to get these mosquitoes under control before they get out and start biting us. So it’s all hands on deck for us right now.”

Mosquitoes will lay eggs in standing water. 

Goodman said, “Typically the mosquitoes lay their egg and then the high tides in the rains cause the eggs to get wet and then they’re hatched. So within about a week of the rains coming, the eggs can go from being hatched to flying adults, go through their whole life cycle within about a week. This happens at various stages because it’s going on all the time. So it’s continuously treating areas. There’s over 1,000 known breeding sites that we know of in the Keys that we treat regularly. Some of these are offshore islands. Some of these are very large areas and I’m not talking about the residents. You’ve got about 50,000 plus residents and businesses they can also be breeding sites. We’re constantly looking and we really depend on the community also trying to police your own residence and businesses to be sure that you’re not breeding there. So, dumping outstanding water and calling mosquito control or going to your app and putting in service requests or online if they need our assistance, because we’re certainly there to help.”

Dengue fever has been in South Florida, but not in the Keys. 

Goodman said, “Right now we have no dengue in the Florida Keys or any mosquito control disease, but they can’t say the same for Florida. We’re on a high alert because we are vulnerable here. Our aggressive mosquito control efforts, I think, have really helped to keep it out. But right now, there’s been over 220 imported cases of Dengue fever, in Florida, mostly in Miami and Broward County, coming from mostly Cuba and Brazil today, but really, there’s about another 20 countries that their travelers are bringing dengue into South Florida. This is something that I think we’ve face for the last four or five years, and it’s growing every year. So this is something that’s going to be with us for some time. Miami is, these cases turn in from travel related, once you get travel related in, then the local Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are infected by biting the infected travelers, and then you get it locally. So we’ve had local transmission, also in Miami, it starts out slow in the spring. So right now, there’s not that many cases. But it’s still ahead of last year, because most of these cases started developing later in the summer and the fall. Last year was a record year, the highest Dengue fever outbreak in Miami, that we’ve had in the US in over 70 years. So this year is ahead of that. But it’s still small, and Miami’s working hard and doing things they can do to keep it out. We’re on high alert here. A couple of things have changed though, for us recently, some of these sterile insect techniques that we’ve been looking at for over a decade, two of them are nows things that we can actually use. The Wolbachia was approved by the federal and the state regulatory agencies, just recently, we’ve been working with them, we will be doing some work with them this year. It’ll probably be benchmarking work for this year, just trying to get ready establishing the criteria, and then hopefully, next year, we’ll be able to put together a program if we see advantages there. Also, the irradiation program for where these mosquitoes are irradiated, to make them sterile. There’s a company now that will be producing these. We’ve been working with them, so we’ll be able to bring those in to test as well. So some of these things that we’ve been working on for over a decade, they’re starting to bear fruit for us, and we’ll be able to actually do some local applications here to see if this is something that can be a tool in the future. We’ve been working with OxiTec. The EPA is still evaluating that. Hopefully, we’ll have that technology that we can use next year. So there’s a lot of things happening there that kind of maybe will help us considerably in the future. But for right now, we’re still under a big threat for for dengue fever, and we’re doing everything we can here in the Florida Keys to keep it out.”

Are there other strategies that help with mosquito borne diseases? 

Goodman said, “There’s about eight really prevalent mosquito borne diseases and last year Florida had five of them. Luckily, we didn’t have any of them here in the Keys. But Florida had five of them, including malaria, which showed up for the first time in over 20 years in the US and this year so far, there’s already been, I think, 26 imported cases of malaria in Florida. So this is another thing that’s this very concerning. There’s hundreds of countries around the world that these diseases are endemic and travelers coming into the US, this is where our problem is here, bringing these diseases in and affecting our mosquitoes. You would hope that there is a global strategy. But a lot of these countries that I mentioned, these are some of the poorest countries in the world, in the tropical areas. They just don’t have money or the organization to do a proper mosquito control like we do here. So there’s not much effort, but there are like OxiTec and the World Mosquito Program, these are private organizations that are setting up in countries with grants mostly. I know OxiTec is in several countries and is doing work with the malaria mosquito and also with the mosquito that carries Dengue fever and yellow fever. The World Mosquito Program is in a number of countries and they’re using Wolbachia technology to try to eliminate some of these diseases in these countries. But it’s very expensive and it’s very slow. There is no really good, quick international solution to this. It all boils down to the main efforts are going to be local efforts here in the Florida Keys, in Miami and other parts of Florida and the US to control these diseases. This is something that seems like it’s going to with us for a long time.”

The Mosquito Control District is meeting today. 

Goodman said, “Our State Representative Jim Mooney is going to be there today. We’re going to give him a tour to be sure that he’s updated on all the latest things that we’re doing. He’s going to address our board this afternoon at one o’clock. We work very closely with with him. He has been very instrumental as well as our State Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez is helping with mosquito control issues, because this is a growing concern within that the entire state. After our regular meeting, we will have our first budget workshop of the year. In June, we usually look at the first look at what we’re going to be looking at for next year with budget and we’ll be continuing to work on that and approve the budget in September. One of the main things we’re doing is we’re building reserves to buy a fourth new helicopter, and that’ll be probably another two or three years in the future. So that’ll be the main topic to see where we are on building our reserves, what we’ll need for for that fourth helicopter. We bought three new helicopters over the last six years and these have really significantly helped us. We’re still using one of the old helicopters. So when we get a new one, it really increases our range. We can’t be everywhere at once and this has been one of our problems when we have rains like we’ve had this this week, where it’s all over the Keys, you need to be everywhere at once. But these new helicopters with their increased range, certainly help in that direction. So we are just getting started on our budget and everybody’s going to be working hard to try to keep that in line as close as possible. So we’ve got several more months on that one.” 

The Mosquito Control District has an app for your phone. 

Goodman explained, “When people go online to make service request, the best way for us is for them to download our app, to go to their app store on their smartphone, both Android and iPhone and we have a free app on there that tells you where we’re going to be treating, when we’re going to be treating, you can set it to alert you automatically when we’re treating in your area to give you some advance notice and what we’re doing. It used to be, when you had the truck coming into your area, you knew what we were doing. But today we have several chemical treatments for different mosquitoes, we have completely different treatment systems for whether it’s the Aedes aegypti or if it’s the nuisance mosquitoes. So we have several different applications by truck, several different ones by helicopter. So it’s a little more complicated than it was and the app allows you to stay really informed on what we’re doing in your area. So that that’s something that everyone should do. It’s also more effective and efficient for us if you make your service request through apps rather than then the telephone or go through the website. Also, this is a national mosquito control week. So you’ll be seeing some things in social media about that as well.”

Three commissioners in the Mosquito Control District were up for reelection and they were all reelected last Friday. 

Goodman said, “I think that’s a good sign. I think people are satisfied with the way we’re handling mosquito control. I can tell you all of our commissioners are very concerned people and really want to do a good job and are very, very much engaged in what we’re doing.”