Officials want to enlist Pasadena residents in their unending war on mosquitoes and the dangerous diseases they spread.
As the San Gabriel Valley Mosquito & Vector Control District takes over responsibility for Pasadena this week, it’s reminding residents that the agency cannot defeat this determined enemy alone.
“While we’re out there, we’re doing our part, but we definitely want to stress that mosquito control is a shared responsibility and everyone should do their part,” said SGV Mosquito & Vector Control spokesman Levy Sun. “Once you do that, we can have a more bite-free Pasadena.
Vector control officials will be aggressively trapping and testing mosquitoes, inspecting and treating storm drains and otherwise taking the fight to the mosquitoes.
Sun says just a bottle cap full of water is enough for mosquitoes to breed in.
More than just pesky — especially to those with particularly delicious blood — mosquitoes carry diseases such as West Nile virus and Zika.
Pasadena has seen no reported cases of West Nile virus or Zika virus this season, according to Sun.
“So far this year, no word yet, and we’re hoping everyone continues to do their part to get rid of the stagnant water and use insect repellent,” he said.
No locally acquired cases of Zika have been reported in Pasadena. “Although the (county) health department has alerted us that last year they did get one person come traveling back to Pasadena with Zika,” Sun said.
State and county health officials report nine confirmed human cases of West Nile virus so far this year, including one in the San Gabriel Valley.
But SGV Mosquito & Vector Control District Operations Manager Jason Farned said without vigilance, that could change in the blink of an eye.
“Especially with Pasadena being so close to Los Angeles, we’re really paying attention to the travel centers and what would happen if a human that’s infected with a virus would come in contact with one of our local mosquitoes, transmit that virus to the mosquito, and the mosquito, essentially, could start a local outbreak,” he said.
The invasive Aedis mosquito is known to carry the Zika virus. The especially aggressive species of mosquito bites both day and night.
And by the end of each summer, health officials generally find samples of West Nile-infected mosquitoes throughout the state, Farned said. “It’s everywhere.”
And that’s why educating the public, and enlisting its help, is vital, he said.
“We want to let people know how dangerous mosquitoes are and tell them what their life cycle, what their biology is. And I think with just a little bit of information, people can see standing water a little bit differently, “Farned said. “The more people we get on board with eliminating standing water and kind of altering the way that they use outdoor spaces, the way that they landscape their yards, all the way to the kind of clothes they wear when they’re outside, …if they use mosquito repellant or not; all of those things will help us in the fight to reduce populations and reduce transmission.”
Mosquitoes breed in still water, Sun said.
“The key here is for everyone to look around the home and also inside the home for any stagnant water. If it’s a container that can hold water, dump it out once a week, stop the mosquitoes from growing in there,” he said.
Sun said to prevent bites, wear repellent. “Some key ingredients to look for in insect repellent is oil of lemon-eucalyptus, picaridin, and DEET.”
Citronella candles can help, but the most effective way to keep the bugs at bay is to apply repellent directly to the skin.
Talking about the electronic sonic devices that claim to clear the area of mosquitoes Sun said, “They may work for only a few select species of mosquitoes, there are actually more than 3,500 species out there. So for one device to repel them all is very unlikely. So far, the ones that are here in Pasadena, they could care less.”
California is home to about 50 species, according to the Mosquito and Vector Control Association of California.
Trying to kill mosquitoes in the air with spray is an exercise in futility, according to SGV Mosquito & Vector Control District officials.
Killing the flying mosquitoes is a short-term solution. Even we, in vector control, consider spraying for adult mosquitoes a last resort,” according to a district fact sheet.
Nancy Troyano, Entomologist and Director of Technical Education and Training for Rentokil North America, the parent company of Western Exterminator, offered some more tips to help avoiding becoming the meal during summer barbecues.
“In a case of an outdoor event, for example a wedding, I recommend contacting a pest control company to treat the area for mosquitoes before the guests arrive,” she said. “Pest control companies can make a one-time application to create a mosquito-repellent barrier around the premises.”
“Also, consider placing fans near tables, dance floors and other places where the guests will congregate,” Troyano added. “Mosquitoes are weak fliers, and will not be able to fly against the air currents produced by the fans.”
Avoid floral scents, including scented perfumes and shampoos, which mosquitoes are attracted to, she said.
“The general recommendation is to apply sunscreen first, then the insect repellent. Use both products as directed by their label. Be aware that certain insect repellents may decrease the efficacy of sunblock, so be prepared to reapply sunblock with more frequency than if you were to use sunblock alone,” Toryano said.
Mosquitoes are also attracted to body odor and exhaled carbon-dioxide, so exercise is likely to make people all the more tempting to them.
“Wear clothing that covers up as much skin as possible, such as long sleeves. Also, wear light-colored clothing, as some mosquitoes are attracted to darker colors. Wear loose-fitting clothing, as mosquitoes can bite through tight-fitting clothes,” Troyano said. “Finally, apply insect repellent to all exposed skin and be sure to re-apply the repellent as directed on the label.”
Only female mosquitoes suck blood, while males dine on plant nectar, according to MVAC.
The females lay hundreds of eggs in standing water, which hatch within about two days. The hatched eggs remain in the water through their larval and pupal stages before sprouting wings and taking flight to start the process over again.