Mosquito Folklore Roundup: Fact or Fiction

When it comes to mosquito knowledge, the line between folk wisdom and folklore is often blurry at best.  Much can be gleaned from country sayings and old wives’ tales, but when it comes to mosquitoes, where does the truth end and the tall-tale begin?  Test your wits by deeming the following mosquito “facts” true or false:

 

  • Mosquitoes are most active during a full moon.
  • Mosquitoes can’t detect you if you are completely still.
  • Crane-flies are actually large male mosquitoes.
  • All mosquitoes bite.
  • Bats provide effective control of mosquitoes.
  • Mosquitoes are annoying but not deadly.

 

 

  • Mosquitoes are most active during a full moon. – True – There have been studies demonstrating a correlation between a full moon and increased mosquito activity. Most species of mosquitoes are active in the time immediately following sunset.  It is possible that a full moon may extend this prime time for mosquito activity until later into the night, which is why this bit of folk wisdom is deemed true.

 

  • Mosquitoes can’t detect you if you are completely still. – False – Mosquitoes have compound eyes that are superior at detecting movement. However, they can also see you when you are at rest.  They are skilled at detecting certain bodily smells and heat, and they can detect carbon dioxide, which is released during breathing.  One’s rate of breathing increases with activity, thus releasing more carbon dioxide and attracting more mosquitoes.  This is likely the source of the myth that mosquitoes can only see movement.  The truth is that mosquitoes see you whether you are still or not.  So, we have to rule this popular bit of mosquito knowledge as false.

 

  • Crane flies are actually large male mosquitoes. – Completely False – Of all the mosquito myths out there, we hear this one the most. A crane fly is certainly not a mosquito.  Though to some they may appear to resemble an extra-large mosquito, a crane fly is a completely different organism all together.  This mosquito myth is 100% false.

 

  • All mosquitoes bite. – False – At the most, only half of mosquitoes bite. One Gravid (pregnant) mosquito can lay hundreds of eggs.  To gain the energy and essential proteins required to lay these eggs, the female mosquito of most species requires a blood meal.  Because they don’t need to lay eggs, male mosquitoes do not bite.  Of the close to 200 mosquito species present in North America, only a fraction choose humans as the primary source for their blood meal.  Many prefer birds or even amphibians.

 

  • Bats provide effective control of mosquitoes. – False – While bats do eat a variety of insects, mosquitoes do not make up a large portion of their diet. Bats are much more likely to snack on bigger insects, such as the dragonfly, and dragonfly larvae are capable of consuming copious amounts of immature mosquitoes.  Therefore, it could be argued that an increased bat population might even result in an amplified mosquito population, making this myth false.

 

  • Mosquitoes are a public nuisance, not a health concern. – Absolutely False – Globally, over a million people die every year as a result of contracting mosquito-borne diseases, making the mosquito the deadliest animal on earth. Despite being spared from malaria, the worst of these diseases, the number of Americans who get sick and die from mosquito-transmitted diseases may surprise you.  Hundreds of people in the United States fall ill as a result of contracting West Nile Virus every year.  Though less deadly, the Zika virus has its own set of very serious public health concerns.  To find the number of confirmed Zika virus cases in your state, take a second to view MCS’ Interactive Map, which is constantly being updated with number of Zika cases in each state.

MCS Attends Annual Mississippi Mosquito & Vector Control Association (MMVCA) Meeting

The Mississippi Mosquito & Vector Control Association (MMVCA) holds their annual meeting for mosquito control districts and experts throughout the state to come together to share information and learn from each other.  Information is presented on a variety of topics.  This year, topics covered the latest on Zika, the potential use of genetically modified mosquitoes, and mosquito ecology.  Presenters included professors from state universities, the Bureau of Plant Industry, the Mississippi Deptartment of Health, and Mosquito Biologist Sam Stines of Mosquito Control Services (MCS), who explained various techniques and trapping methods used to survey the Aedes mosquito.  This has been an important topic recently due to the realization that Aedes aegypti is the primary vector of Zika Virus.

 

Sam Stines works with a staff of biologists, entomologists, and program directors to ensure that MCS is providing the most state-of-the-art, comprehensive, and effective mosquito control to the multitude of counties and cities where they are contracted.  To stay abreast of the latest techniques and technologies, Sam and his staff attend both state and national mosquito control conferences.  By doing so, they make sure that residents of the areas served by MCS are benefiting from the most modern and up-to-date mosquito abatement strategies.

 

Mississippi Mosquito & Vector Control Association meeting
MCS Biologist Sam Stines talks about various surveillance techniques that can be employed to trap and track Aedes mosquitoes. Aedes aegypti has garnered increased attention after being implicated as the primary vector of Zika Virus.

 

Having 15 years’ of hands-on experience conducting every facet of a Mosquito Management Program makes Stines an invaluable resource.  Over the past year, Stines and his associates have implemented increased surveillance efforts targeting the Aedes aegypti (vector of Zika) and Aedes albopictus (suspected Zika vector).  The purpose of increasing and diversifying surveillance techniques is to identify and suppress the population of container-breeding mosquitoes prior to local Zika activity.  Taking steps now will decrease the likelihood of an outbreak, and at the same time, increase a district’s ability to launch a targeted response should a virus event occur.

 

Sam and his associates are experienced in developing and implementing responses to mosquito-borne diseases including Zika, Chikungunya, West Nile Virus, and St. Louis Encephalitis.  They can be reached to discuss virus response or a comprehensive mosquito control at (1-800-256-1784) or by email at sam@mosquitocs.com.  More information about Mosquito Control Services (MCS) can be found at www.mosquitocs.com.

MCS Prepares for Zika Response Mobilization: Is Your District Ready for a Local Zika Outbreak?

The amount of resources allocated to mosquito control districts vary greatly between counties.  While more prosperous counties administer robust programs, districts with less to spend may have a limited program or even worse, no program at all.  Mosquitoes and the viruses they transmit (such as Zika) have no concept of county lines or budgetary constraints.  Therefore, it is important for all districts, regardless of budget, to have a contingency plan for response to an outbreak of mosquito-borne virus. 

 

Mosquito Control Services (MCS) is the contractor of choice to provide comprehensive and cost-effective Zika response to both state and local entities.  MCS is currently contracted by two state health departments and a multitude of counties and cities along the Gulf and East Coasts.

 

zika response by Mosquito Control Services

 

These counties, cities, and states enter mosquito season comforted by the assurance that if Zika activity is detected, MCS will launch a quick and effective response effort.  MCS maintains a surplus of licensed personnel, vehicles, chemicals, and equipment strategically located throughout the areas they serve.  Staff entomologists and biologists have years of experience in designing and executing protocols followed in response to virus activity.  They have been on the front lines, responding to Zika, Chikungunya, West Nile Virus, and St. Louis Encephalitis.

 

These mosquito experts are well-versed in every aspect of mosquito-borne virus response, including performing door-to-door inspections, habitat reduction, larvaciding, adulticiding, public education, trapping, surveillance, and virus testing,  all while coordinating and maintaining communication with state/local/federal government entities.  As virus response is conducted, MCS updates federal and local officials with daily reports detailing abatement activities and statuses.

 

County decision-makers unsure or uncomfortable with their county’s preparedness for Zika outbreak are invited to contact Mosquito Control Services (1-800-256-1784).  Experienced entomologists and mosquito biologists are available to explain the various options available to provide a comprehensive and significant response to suppress a local Zika outbreak.  References from government entities are available upon request.   (The aspects that should be included in a Zika Response Protocol are detailed in MCS’ recently released Zika Response White-Paper.)

CDC Releases Updated Zika Totals

Updated Zika Totals: Check your state’s numbers; limit your risk

Recently, the Center for Disease Control has released updated information regarding the number of confirmed human Zika infections in the United States and the US territories. Below is a brief explanation of what these numbers mean, as well as some methods by which you can lower your risk of contracting the Zika virus.

Click here to quickly view how many cases were in your state.

 

Background information:

  1. Zika is most often transmitted by an infected mosquito. However, it can also be transmitted through sexual contact, blood transfusions, medical procedures, and from mother to fetus.
  2. Zika virus may persist in bodily fluids (i.e. semen) even after it can no longer be detected by a blood test.

 

Explanation of the terms associated with the numbers

United States traveling cases: 4,886

US territories traveling cases data: Unreliably documented

‘Traveling cases’ refer to humans who have contracted Zika in another country and then traveled to the United States. These cases are typically discovered by medical treatments, medical testing, or through blood donations.

The good news: These numbers are not associated with active transmission from the bite of a mosquito. Currently, mosquito transmission of Zika is low in the continental United States.

The bad news: Most of the people infected with Zika will have mild or no symptoms. Thus, the number of travelling Zika cases is likely higher than reported. It is estimated that less than 20% of infected individuals experience any symptoms at all.

Prevention: It is difficult to know who may be carrying the Zika virus. Even after an individual’s virus levels are too low for human-to-mosquito transmission, human-to human-transmission may still be possible. You should take precautions, especially if you or individuals close to you have recently travelled to areas where Zika is prevalent.

 

United States local transmission cases: 222 – Florida (216), Texas (6)

US territories local transmission cases: 38,303

‘Local transmission cases’ refer to humans who have contracted Zika virus without travelling to areas where it is prevalent. Local transmission can occur as a result of a local mosquito bite or by exposure to bodily fluids of individuals with Zika.

The good news: Currently, only two mosquito species in the United States have been proven to possess the ability to transmit Zika, with one, Aedes aegypti, being designated as the main vector.

The bad news: Zika-transmitting mosquitoes have adapted to live in close proximity to humans. They breed in containers as small as bottle caps and bite actively throughout the day.

Prevention: Empty any container that is holding water to reduce mosquitoes. Following label directions, apply an EPA-approved repellent and wear light-colored clothing that covers skin to prevent mosquito bites. Use of condoms, oral prophylactics, and abstinence are important options when you are or a partner is at risk for having the Zika virus.

It is difficult to predict how bad Zika will affect the United States this year. Precautions and awareness are necessary to stay virus-free.

Simply guide your mouse over your state to see reported cases.

These statistics are from CDC.gov.

Totals span from Jan 1, 2015 through March 29, 2017.

Fashion and Function: Jewelry as Mosquito Repellent

A new jewelry collection was unveiled this summer from Singapore; it is called “Yu Ahn” and doubles as mosquito repellent. Made from Onyx, Jade, and Rhodium, the spherical jewelry comes with small Citronella beads that can be changed and refilled.

mosquito repellent jewelry

Created to combat the Zika outbreak in Asia, the collection features ornate bracelets and necklaces; the Jade is a symbol of protection in many cultures. Citronella is entirely non-toxic and is also incredibly effective – the designer calls it “the concept of safety and fashion.” Many of the pieces are currently sold out, and they range in price from $30 to $50.

 

Original article here

What You Need to Know about Zika Blood Tests

Zika Blood Tests: how difficult is it to obtain one, and how long does it take to receive your results?

Those deemed most at risk for contracting Zika, like international travelers, are finding it difficult to obtain the appropriate blood tests. Even would-be parents are facing delays and eligibility issues. If patients do not fit the CDC’s testing criteria, Zika blood tests, often several of which are required, can cost up to $800.

Zika blood tests

Public health laboratories in states and regions hit hardest by the virus are experiencing a tremendous backlog in processing existing samples, often not taking any additional. Despite other compelling reasons for needing a Zika blood analysis, the CDC is giving priority only to expectant mothers with possible exposure or to those currently experiencing Zika symptoms.

 

Once tested, potentially after already being wait-listed, conclusive results can take multiple weeks, especially in areas previously offering free public testing, such as Miami. Private clinics, which do not always have the resources and tools to conduct the full, three-part Zika blood exam, can typically confirm results in three to seven days. However, limited staff and storage space have also extended the wait time and compounded this problem.

Understanding Mosquito Attractants

There is no question that mosquitoes are attracted to certain types of people more than others. We have all had those nights where the person next to us is bitten by seemingly every mosquito in the area while the pests completely ignore others. Why are mosquitoes more attracted to some people? There are many reasons, and it is important to understand how mosquito attracts like Octenol, sweat, color, heat, and mosquito diet determine how attractive we are to mosquitoes.


Each person has different levels of a specific alcohol, called Octenol, present in their breath and sweat. Octenol has been shown to attract not only mosquitoes but other types of biting insects. The higher the level of Octenol, secreted from sweat glands in the body, the easier it is for mosquitoes to find you in a crowd. Octenol is composed of sequences of Linoleic acid to combine to form the alcohol in your body. According to the EPA, Octenol can even be used in biopesticides because of its attractive nature to biting insects.
In addition to alcohols secreted through sweat, mosquitoes are attracted to both heat and dark colors. Color and heat are connected because wearing a certain color on a sunny day can affect a person’s temperature. For example, dark clothing will absorb more of the sun’s heat than white or yellow garments. Mosquitoes can see darker colors more easily as well.
Most people think mosquitoes survive solely on blood, but a major portion of their diet consists of plant nectar, a sugary solution with a sweet smell often mimicked by perfume. As a result, it is important to remember that in addition to smelling good to people, perfume can also make you smell delicious to a mosquito.
Due to the increased level of concern about mosquito-borne disease, it is essential to understand how mosquitoes determine who to bite. Increased cases of West Nile virus and Zika virus remind us that we must utilize all the information available to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the world’s most deadly animal.

Top 5 Zika Developments in 2016

Many advancements were made in 2016 regarding the Zika virus and its potential effect on the United States.  Researchers confirmed the suspected link between Zika and microcephaly.  The Zika virus made its debut in the continental US with over 4,000 travel-related Zika cases and 185 locally acquired Zika cases in 2016.  A federal Zika bill was approved, and mosquito control efforts were increased and altered to focus on Zika.  However, many municipalities are still without a plan to deal with a Zika outbreak in their own communities.  As the 2017 mosquito season approaches, it is important for areas with conditions conducive to a Zika outbreak to have a plan in place.

 

 

 

1. Link confirmed between Zika virus contraction and birth defects, including microcephaly.

Over the past year, thousands of babies were born with the Zika-linked condition of microcephaly.  Most of these cases occurred in the South American countries of Brazil and Columbia.   In 2016, the US experienced just over 30 documented cases of Zika-related birth defects.  Though previously suspected, it was not until April of 2016 that there was enough causal evidence for the CDC to directly link Zika virus infection with this and other birth defects.

 

2. Microcephaly is not the only condition caused by Zika.

Though microcephaly is the most easily recognizable condition attributed to Zika, there are several other Zika-related developmental issues that may not be apparent until months or years after a child is born.  For example, it is also widely suspected that Zika is linked to the autoimmune condition known as “Guillain-Barre Syndrome” (GBS).

 

3. Clinical trials began in the search for a Zika vaccine.

Because Zika threatens wealthier countries, such as the US and Brazil, Big Pharma sees the potential to make billions by bringing the first effective Zika vaccine to market.  This process is being expedited by government grants, which are covering much of the initial research and development.

 

4. First Zika cases transmitted in the continental US occur in Florida and Texas.

The first locally transmitted cases of Zika were documented in Southern Florida and Southern Texas.  The transmission was attributed to aedes aegypti mosquitoes,  a species prevalent in the State of Florida and across the Gulf Coast region.  Preparations were made in the areas likely to be affected.

 

5. Congress approved a $1.1 billion Zika bill.

Nearly $400 million will be dedicated to vaccine development, while another $400 million will go towards mosquito abatement.  There are also allocations for healthcare-related services, such as the testing and treatment of babies born with Zika-related complications.

New Orleans Metro Company Releases “Mosquitoes” to Combat Zika Virus

New Orleans Metro Company Releases “Mosquitoes” to Combat Zika Virus: 

Education is Major Tool in Battle

combat zika virus

As the Federal Government continues to argue over how to fund the fight against Zika, a New Orleans based mosquito control company is touting public education as an inexpensive step that can be taken to help suppress the spread of Zika Virus.

Mosquito Control Services (MCS) is launching an initiative to put FREE Zika educational materials in the hands of educators across the country, so that they can teach their students to be the first line of defense in helping to protect themselves and their families from mosquitoes with the potential to carry Zika.

The lessons were designed by MCS Biologists and former science teachers who routinely visit elementary schools to teach students about the mosquito life cycle, biology, safety, and now, how they can help protect themselves and their families from mosquitoes.  Educators from around the country will be able to download educational materials and lesson plans that align with Common Core Standards from the MCS website: www.MosquitoCS.com  by simply clicking on the Teachers’ Portal. In the areas that they serve, MCS will also provide staff biologists to assist in presenting these lessons.

 “Over the years, we’ve prioritized taking the time to visit schools to teach kids about mosquitoes and the threats associated with them,” said Biologist Andrew Carpenter.  He added that, “Mosquitoes are such an interesting topic, and kids naturally love to learn.  We encourage kids to put what they learn into practice and share their new Zika-fighting knowledge with others.”

Education is an MCS initiative in the many parishes, counties, and cities where they are contracted to provide mosquito abatement.  “The public concern over Zika Virus is so great that we feel it is our duty as experts to share our knowledge and help thwart the spread of this disease in Louisiana and elsewhere in the Southeast,” explains Steven Pavlovich, MCS General Manager and Principal Entomologist.

Mosquito-Killing Algae: Coming to a pond near you?

Mosquito Control Services is a huge advocate of environmentally friendly and eco-minded pest control techniques. MCS utilizes a number of sustainable, safe tactics, including mosquito fish and fast-dissolving sprays, in its daily business. Mosquito-killing algae may be on the horizon.

University of Texas researchers have developed an algae that kills mosquito larvae without harming other plants or animals and is safe for use even in drinking water. Chlamydomonas, or “chalmy” for short, contains a toxin to which mosquitoes are currently unable to build a tolerance.

mosquito killing algae not pictured

Similar ingredients are already used in pest control bricks often dropped in bodies of water, except this algae is alive and capable of long life as well as reproduction.

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