Mosquitos – everyone’s least favorite part of the summer. While the tiny terrors may seem an unfortunate but unavoidable side effect of the season, according to Burlington County Mosquito Control, there are steps residents can take to cut down on their numbers in their vicinity.
The lifecycle of a mosquito consists of four distinct stages that are cycled through at a rapid rate: egg, larva, pupa and adult. Humans only have females to worry about, as the males subsist on a diet of nectar and pollen.
According to Erin Nooney with Burlington County Mosquito Control, the amount of time it takes for a mosquito to reach adulthood varies between species and can be affected by weather conditions like temperature.
“The warmer it gets, the quicker they go,” said Nooney.
There are 50 species of mosquitoes throughout Burlington County, according to Nooney, and given steadily rising temperatures in our area, certain species can go through their entire lifecycle in as few as five to six days.
The combination of heat and rain that we have seen this summer has driven populations to higher numbers than we have seen in previous years, says Nooney.
Luckily for us, not all species target humans, some preferring to feast on birds and reptiles. The most common biting mosquito in our area is the Asian tiger mosquito, easily identified by its striped color pattern.
As far as dangers posed to humans, these insects’ bites carry a risk of transmitting viruses. Nooney says his department tests mosquitoes captures for viruses like EEE (eastern equine encephalitis), West Nile and Jamestown Canyon virus.
“Those are the three we find most commonly in mosquitoes,” said Nooney.
According to Nicholas Gangemi, public information officer for the Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders, finding these viruses in mosquitoes doesn’t mean they are commonly transmitted to humans. Actual cases of humans contracting these viruses are much less common.
As with any virus, young children and the elderly are most at risk and extra precautions should be taken when they spend time outdoors.
One of the first steps residents can take when it comes to cutting down on nearby populations is making sure their yard is free of standing water where mosquitoes tend to lay eggs. These insects typically live and die within 100 feet of the water where they hatched. Common breeding grounds include things like bird baths, wheelbarrows and rain gutters.
“Something as small as a bottle cap that’s turned over and filled with water is sufficient for them to lay and successfully hatch eggs,” said Gangemi.
“It’s getting creative and thinking about where you have standing water in your yard that is the biggest thing to make (mosquitoes) less of an issue for you,” said Nooney.
Store-bought products can be hit or miss when it comes to fighting off mosquitoes that have already hatched. Sprays containing DEET have proven effective at keeping mosquitoes off of you. Nooney gives less credence to burning products like citronella candles, however.
Fans can also serve as a deterrent as mosquitoes are weak flyers. It can pay to bring one outside for your next backyard barbecue.
The county takes steps to control mosquito populations as well. Although some may be wary of sprayings in their area, Gangemi and Nooney want to assure residents that all measures taken by county mosquito control are EPA-approved and sprayings are never conducted in populated areas. In fact, according to Gangemi, a spotter is on the helicopter at all times to ensure no one is ever in the path of a spray.
Aerial “sprayings” don’t actually involve any kind of liquid spray being dispensed over populated areas.
“It is dispensed in the form of clay pellets which are both vigorously tracked and EPA-approved products,” said Gangemi.
Gangemi and Nooney both stress that aerial dispensing of these pellets by the county occurs only over wooded areas and marshes.
“Areas that are greater than five acres that are hard to reach, that people are not typically in,” specified Gangemi.
Truck sprayings in an area occur only as a reactionary measure after mosquitoes have tested positive for a particular virus.
“Most of these things have been used for years, decades in some cases, and there’s really no documented ill effects that we have come across,” said Nooney.
Residents concerned about a possible allergic reaction, or who have been advised by a doctor to be aware of sprayings in their area, can sign up for alerts on the county’s website, co.burlington.nj.us, by clicking the mosquito control link under the public works department heading.