People are buzzing about mosquitoes here in Orlando, and there’s a good reason why. One species found in central Florida, Aedes aegypti, is the main vector that transmits the Zika virus to humans. Although the long-term implications of the spread of the virus are unknown, Zika causes serious neurological conditions such as microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome.
Mosquitoes In Orlando
With our wet climate and wetlands, mosquitoes love Orlando. With the rising threat of mosquito-borne diseases in our area, it’s important to understand the problem we face in our region and take steps to control mosquitoes around our homes.
Below we’ll look at some of the types of mosquitoes we have in Orlando and what you can do to protect yourself and your family.
Types of Mosquitoes
Out of the approximately 3,500 species of mosquitoes that exist, we’re fortunate to only have 171 of them here in the US. However, Florida is home to 80 of them – more than in any other state. Out of those 80, the following species are known to transmit diseases:
- Aedes & Ochlerotatus
- Mansonia & Coquillettidia
The aedes aegypti has been in the US for centuries, although it thrives in tropical and subtropical climates. Distribution maps show that aedes aegypti have been found in most of the southern states and coastal states and as far north as Connecticut.
Adults grow to be about 4 to 7 millimeters, with white scales on the top of the thorax which resemble a violin. Females are bigger than males and produce anywhere from 100 to 200 eggs per batch.
The species is more commonly known as the yellow fever mosquito, since it transmits this disease, in addition to the Zika virus. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes feed on the nectar or plants, although females depend on human blood in order to produce eggs. Unlike most mosquitoes, aedes egypti tend to bite during the day.
Aedes egypti are most commonly found in urban areas, where they have close access to humans. Commonly found in containers, these mosquitoes often breed in tires, drainage ditches, and other standing bodies of water.
What are some of the diseases carried by mosquitoes?
Mosquitoes can spread a number of different diseases including malaria, yellow fever, and dengue fever. Because these are tropical diseases, these diseases are generally not a concern for most of the US. In Orlando, we mainly face two diseases transmitted by mosquitoes: West Nile and Zika. Other diseases, including St. Louis Encephalitis, Dengue Fever, and Chikungunya Virus, are tropical diseases, which means they are much less common.
Typically Zika is a mild illness that lasts about a week and may be accompanied by fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis. It poses a greater threat to pregnant women due to the potential for microcephaly, a birth defect that affects the development of an infant’s brain.
As of May 2016, research by the National Center for Atmospheric Research showed that Orlando and five other Florida cities have a high risk for large numbers of the Aedes mosquito, the primary vector for Zika. According to the Centers for Disease Control, as of October of 2016, there have been 708 cases of Zika in Florida, with 19 cases traced to local mosquitoes rather than as a consequence of traveling abroad.
West Nile is a mosquito-transmitted virus that is spread initially by birds. Mosquitoes become infected when they bite a bird that is a host to the virus. Transmission to humans occurs when those mosquitoes subsequently bite people.
Most people who contract West Nile will never develop symptoms. A few infected may experience mild flu-type symptoms such as fever, aches, and nausea, with fewer than 1% of developing serious illness. Of those, the most susceptible are the elderly, so extra precautions should be taken in our region. Although rare, the more serious symptoms of West Nile can include severe pain, numbness, paralysis, or convulsions.
Public Health Agency Response To Spread Of Aedes Mosquitoes
Orange County has a two-pronged approach for mosquito control. The county employs a team of experts to map mosquitoes using special traps throughout the county. These efforts help determine the types of mosquitoes in our area and their relative population sizes. The county also conducts daily inspections of areas known to be problems for mosquitoes and takes preventative action on breeding areas.
In addition to these efforts, the county works to educate the public on how to reduce mosquito populations and exposure at home. Orlando also has truck-mounted mosquito-spraying equipment that has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Florida. Despite the best efforts of these public health agencies, disease-carrying mosquitoes are still abundant in central Florida.
Tips for preventing mosquito bites
Here are some helpful ways to keep yourself and your family safe.
For your yard:
- Keep lawns mowed and cut down tall weeds.
- Drain all standing water on your property, and remove items that collect water.
- Use mosquito dunks (or mosquito fish) in birdbaths and ponds.
- Clean leaves and debris from gutters.
When you go outside:
- Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing.
- Always apply insect repellant. Look for products with the active ingredients DEET, Picaridin, or lemon eucalyptus oil, all of which offer effective protection against mosquito bites.
- Apply repellent both to exposed skin and to clothing, including hats and socks.
Need Help Dealing with Mosquitoes?
If you have a mosquito problem at your home, our pest control experts at ABC Home And Commercial Services Orlando can help. We can install mosquito misting for your yard and offer other measures to reduce mosquito populations around your property.