Container-bred mosquitoes problematic for Pine Bluff

Despite the rise in mosquito numbers across the state over the past weeks because of steady rain and summer heat, a Jefferson County Health Unit vector control employee said most mosquito problems can be handled using cleanliness and common sense.

A vector is any agent capable of carrying infectious pathogens into another living organism, and Mark Townsend at the local health unit said he is focused on eliminating one particular vector: the southern house mosquito, also known as culex quinquefasciatus.

“The mosquito people need to be conscious of only travels 300 feet in its life,” Townsend said. “But that’s the one we’re worried about.”

The reason for worry: This mosquito can be a carrier for diseases harmful to humans such as the West Nile Virus and St. Louis Encephalitis, according to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ website.

Townsend said the southern house mosquito is a container-breeding mosquito. He said this specific species’ larvae are able to reproduce and sustain life in stagnant water found in everything from ditches and ponds to empty plastic containers, tires and old aluminum cans.

He said the larvae must have air to survive, so they use their siphon to breathe while under the still water. Rain will kill the larvae most of the time by disrupting the water in the container and washing it out, he said.

But the rain doesn’t always do the job, and he said he has applied mineral oil to the surface of stagnant water before in order to kill larvae the rain didn’t wipe out. He said this special oil forms an impenetrable wall the larvae cannot breathe through.

“My whole program is designed to kill the larvae by treating standing water,” he said.

Residents can easily take preventative measures to avoid a mosquito infestation, he said, by keeping property clear of clutter that may collect water, keeping shrubs trimmed and cleaning out gutters.

He also said barrier sprays are available at feed stores, Lowes and Walmart.

“These sprays are very economical. Mosquitoes will not cross the barrier and it should last for a month,” he said.

Townsend said he strongly encourages using barrier sprays around residences because, “there’s a reason they’re called the southern house mosquito: That’s where they live and stay.”

Protection of self is a vitally important facet in combating these mosquitoes, and he said sprays for both clothing and skin are available at stores, though, he warns to not use a clothing spray on the skin and vice versa.

David Massingale, director for Stuttgart Mosquito Control, said traditional breeding grounds for mosquitoes have been in agricultural areas, such as the Stuttgart areas’ numerous rice fields. But he said in Pine Bluff, the problem comes from these container-bred mosquitoes.

“Any place that is a consistent water source will be their breeding ground,” Massingale said. “The whole state is getting hit hard. There have been reports of mosquito problems in North Little Rock and Jonesboro too.”

He said Pine Bluff’s mosquito season should end around the beginning of September, while Stuttgart will be dealing with the pests until October.