Scientific research over the past 50 years has shown that female mosquitoes find their prey using a combination of sensory cues including light, shape, color, heat, vibration, sweat and other by-products of human activity.
Suitable for residential and commercial use, Mega-Catch™ traps produce a vast array of Mosquito Attracting Stimuli, and (model dependent) can attract mosquitoes and other biting insects from as far away as 150 feet.
Patience and experimentation are the keys to getting the best out of your mosquito trap and we recommend 6-8 weeks of continuous use to reduce the mosquito population to the point that the breeding cycle is interrupted.
USDA research entomologist Dr Dan Kline, who regularly tests and conducts studies on mosquito traps, cites operator error as a major contributor to impaired trap performance. "It's important that people read and follow the owner's manual." says Kline. "Placement is a big issue - you need to keep the trap out of the immediate area where people gather, and try to put it between the people and the source of the mosquitoes."
Revolutionary design features and patented technology work not only to attract, trap and kill mosquitoes, but over time disrupt the breeding cycle and reduce current and future mosquito populations. Safe, non-toxic and environmentally friendly, Mega-Catch™ Traps have been designed to provide effective, long term, DIY mosquito control. And with four models to choose from, we have a trap to suit your needs.
Extensive scientific testing at various locations around the world (including tests by the United States Department of Agriculture in Gainesville, Florida) have proven Mega-Catch™ systems to be highly effective in catching and reducing mosquito populations as well as other types of biting insects.
Mega-Catch™ mosquito traps have consistently out-performed competing brands in independent scientific trials.
A Bug Is Born
Only female mosquitoes bite. Both male and female feed mainly on fruit and plant nectar, but the female also needs the protein in blood to help her eggs develop. Once she's had her fill of blood, she'll rest for a couple of days before laying her eggs.
There are more than 3,500 species of mosquitoes. About 175 of them are found in the United States, with the Anopheles quadrimaculatus, Culex pipiens,Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus (Asian tiger mosquito) among the most common. The Anopheles is a malaria carrier, and the other three are known to spread various forms of encephalitis.
West Virginia has the fewest species of mosquitoes. There are 26 in the mountainous state, while Texas has the most with 85. Florida is a close second with 80 identified species.
Mosquito is Spanish for “little fly.” The word reportedly originated in the early 16th century. In Africa, New Zealand and Australia, mosquitoes are often called “Mozzies”
Mosquitoes don't have teeth. The females “bite” with a long, pointed mouthpart called a proboscis. They use the serrated proboscis to pierce the skin and locate a capillary, then draw blood through one of two tubes.
A mosquito can drink up to three times its weight in blood. Don't worry, though. It would take about 1.2 million bites to drain all the blood from your body.
Female mosquitoes can lay up to 300 eggs at a time. Usually, the eggs are deposited in clusters – called rafts – on the surface of stagnant water, or they are laid in areas that flood regularly. Eggs can hatch in as little as an inch of standing water. Females will lay eggs up to three times before they die.
Mosquitoes spend their first 10 days in water. Water is necessary for the eggs to hatch into larvae, called wigglers. Wigglers feed on organic matter in stagnant water and breathe oxygen from the surface. They develop into pupae, which do not feed and are partially encased in cocoons. Over several days, the pupae change into adult mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes hibernate. They are cold-blooded and prefer temperatures over 80 degrees. At temperatures less than 50 degrees, they shut down for the winter. The adult females of some species find holes where they wait for warmer weather, while others lay their eggs in freezing water and die. The eggs keep until the temperatures rise, and they can hatch.
The average mosquito lifespan is less than two months. Males have the shortest lives, usually 10 days or less, and females can live about six to eight weeks, under ideal conditions. The females lay eggs about every three days during that time. Females of species that hibernate may live up to six months.
The Bloodsucker Behavior And Anatomy
Mosquitoes have six legs. They also have a head, thorax and abdomen. On the head are two large compound eyes, two ocelli (simple eyes), two antennae and a proboscis. Two large, scaled wings sprout from the thorax.
Midges and crane flies are often mistaken for mosquitoes. Biting midges are smaller, have shorter wings and tend to feed in swarms. Mosquito traps often attract and kill biting midges. Meanwhile, crane flies are much larger than mosquitoes – up to 1 ½ inches long in some cases – and do not bite.
Male mosquitoes locate females by the sound of their wings. Females can beat their wings up to 500 times per second, and the males pick out the higher frequency of those beats when seeking a mate.
Mosquitoes can't fly very far or very fast. Most mosquitoes can fly no more than about one to three miles, and often stay within several hundred feet of where they were hatched. However, a few salt marsh species can travel up to 40 miles. The top speed for a mosquito is about 1.5 miles per hour.
Mosquitoes generally fly below 25 feet. However, some species have also been found at extraordinary heights, including 8,000 feet up in the Himalayas.
Mosquitoes can smell human breath. They have receptors on their antennae that detect the carbon dioxide released when we exhale. Those plumes of CO2 rise into the air, acting as trails that the mosquitoes follow to find the source.
Sweat helps mosquitoes choose their victims. Our skin produces more than 340 chemical odors, and some of them smell like dinner to mosquitoes. They are fond of octenol, a chemical released in sweat, as well as cholesterol, folic acid, certain bacteria, skin lotions, and perfume.
Body heat marks the target. Mosquitoes use heat sensors around their mouthparts to detect the warmth of your body – actually, the blood inside it – then land on you and locate the best capillaries for tapping.
Mosquitoes feed day and night. Some species, like the Aedes are daytime biters, while others, like Culex, start biting at dusk and continue a few hours into dark.
The Trouble With Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes have been around since the Jurassic period. That makes them about 210 million years old. They've been mentioned throughout history, including in the works of Aristotle around 300 B.C. and in writings by Sidonius Apollinaris in 467 B.C.
The bumps from mosquito bites are caused by saliva. While one tube in the proboscis draws blood, a second pumps in saliva containing a mild painkiller and an anti-coagulant. Most people have minor allergic reactions to the saliva, causing the area around the bite to swell and itch.
Malaria is caused by a parasite that lives in mosquitoes. The parasite gets into mosquito saliva and is passed on when the insect bites someone. West Nile and other viruses are passed the same way. Mosquitoes can also carry and pass on canine heartworm.
West Nile virus came to the U.S. in 1999. Scientists first identified it in a feverish woman in Uganda – the West Nile district – in 1937. There were large outbreaks of the virus reported in Israel, South Africa, and Romania up through the late '90s. The virus first appeared in the United States in 1999 with an epidemic in New York.
Mosquitoes do not transmit HIV. The virus that causes AIDS does not replicate in mosquitoes and is actually digested in their stomachs, so it's broken down without being passed on.
Mosquitoes are considered the deadliest “animal” in the world. The Anopheles mosquito, in particular, is dangerous because it transmits malaria, which kills more than one million people every year, primarily in Africa. Alexander the Great is believed to have died of malaria in 323 B.C.
Keeping THEM Away From You
DEET is considered the 'gold standard' of mosquito repellents. Endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), DEET doesn't mask the smell of the host or jam the insect's senses - mosquitoes simply don't like it because it smells bad to them. A product containing 10 percent DEET can protect you for up to 90 minutes. Two other repellents, picaridin and lemon-eucalyptus oil, have also proven effective and are now recommended by the CDC.
Bacteria can be used to kill mosquito larvae. Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) is a commercially-produced bacteria, sold in pellet and powder form, that can be laced into water where larvae live. It produces proteins that turn into toxins after the larvae eat it.
Dark clothing attracts mosquitoes. Remember, they are drawn to heat and darker clothes retain more heat than light-colored clothing.
Insecticides work, but only in the short term. Permethrin, one of the most common chemicals used by local mosquito control programs, kills mosquitoes on contact by disrupting their central nervous systems. However, eggs and larvae often are not affected. Once the insecticide dissipates, mosquitoes can return.
Bats do not eat mosquitoes. At least, not very many of them. Mosquitoes make up less than 1 percent of a bat's diet. And purple martins, a bird popularly believed to be a mosquito predator, eat very few mosquitoes. They prefer dragonflies and other insects.
The two main mosquito predators are fish and dragonflies. Gambusia, or mosquitofish, feed on mosquito larvae and are used all over the world to help control mosquito populations. Dragonfly larvae, called nymphs, eat mosquito larvae, and adult dragonflies prey on adult mosquitoes. Some towns in Maine release dragonflies every summer as a natural form of mosquito control.
Mosquito traps can kill thousands of mosquitoes in a single night. One study conducted by public health researchers in Australia found that a Mega-Catch™ trap caught and killed more than 44,000 female mosquitoes from 17 species in less than two weeks.
Bug zappers are useless against mosquitoes. Studies have shown that less than 1 percent of the insects killed by zappers are mosquitoes or other biting insects. The devices attract and kill beneficial or harmless insects, like moths, and have no effect on the overall mosquito population. Electronic repellers have also proven ineffective in scientific testing.
Sources: The American Mosquito Control Association; the U.S. Centers for Disease Control; the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and, entomology and agriculture departments at the University of California – Davis, Colorado State University, Rutgers University, University of Nebraska, and the University of Florida.
When A Mosquito Bites
Females are typically the only mosquitoes that feed on blood, and they do it because they need the protein to help develop their eggs. Without it, the eggs don't mature to the point that the female mosquito can lay them for hatching.
The Female Tracks You Down By Sight, Smell And Feel.
Her head consists mainly of two giant compound eyes able to pick up movement and bright colors from long distances. From as far away as 120 feet, she can smell the carbon dioxide you exhale and the lactic acid that gathers on your skin from sweat. A little nearer, and your body heat begins to draw her like the “Hot Doughnuts Now” sign at Krispy Kreme.
The mosquito lights on your exposed skin and slides a serrated proboscis into you, searching for a capillary. At the same time, she injects saliva that contains enzymes to dull the pain and keep your blooding from clotting. Left uninterrupted, she will draw blood until her abdomen is full.
What Do Mosquito Bites Look Like?
Those enzymes are the problem.
Your body doesn't like them because they are foreign invaders, so your mast cells release histamine, a naturally occurring substance which rushes to the site and causes blood vessel to enlarge. Sometimes the body releases too much histamine. The result is mosquito bite swelling, or what's called a “wheal.” The area around the bite rises, turns red and begins to itch.
How much and for how long varies from person to person, but swollen mosquito bites generally are about the size of a dime and last about a day. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic report that, in some people with extreme sensitivities, mosquito bites can swell to the size of grapefruits and linger for days.
And occasionally, there are people who experience anaphylaxis, a severe reaction to mosquito bites. When that happens, the person's throat can swell shut, restricting breathing, the person's skin may break out into hives – itchy red bumps – anywhere on the body, not just at the bite. While rare, the reaction can be life-threatening, according to the Mayo.
WebMD reports that repeated mosquito bites over a lifetime may help people become immune to the saliva, or can have the opposite effect, making a person even more sensitive.
Sweet Relief: How To Stop Mosquito Bites From Itching
There are a lot suggestions for soothing the discomfort of an allergic reaction to a mosquito bite. Some are common-sense, some medical and some just a little odd. But they all have advocates who swear they work. Among The Suggestions:
Don't scratch the bite. That only irritates your skin further and could lead to infection. Give it a light washing with soap and cool water.
Try calamine lotion. The pink goo, a favorite of moms everywhere, is a mixture of zinc oxide and iron oxide and works as a cooling, all-purpose soother. The Food and Drug Administration declared in the early '90s that it's ineffective in treating itches, but doctors still recommend it. You might also try Caladryl, which contains both calamine and an analgesic to help relieve the sting.
Apply an OTC hydro-cortisone cream. The cream contains corticosteroids which will counteract the effect of the histamines and help reduce the swelling, which should give you some relief from the mosquito bite itch. An anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen will also help.
Use a cold compress or ice pack. Histamines dilate the blood vessels, filling the affected area with excess blood. Cold causes the vessels to constrict, so that the amount of blood is reduced around the bite.
Take an antihistamine. This won't work immediately, but an OTC medication like Benadryl will prevent histamines from binding with receptors at the blood vessels. The vessels in the bite area return to normal, and the swelling and itching dissipates. Remember, you can take an antihistamine before going outside to minimize your allergic reaction to a mosquito bite.
Dab on some baking soda paste. For some reason, the Mayo Clinic doctors – and dozens of home-remedy advocates – suggest adding a bit of water to regular baking soda, then applying the paste to the mosquito bite. The reason isn't clear, but it apparently helps relieve the itch.
Heat up a spoon and apply to the bite. The heat will destroy the protein that caused the reaction and the itching will stop.
Go homeopathic. Suggestions range from rubbing the bite with the inside of a banana peel to dabbing on toothpaste to covering the bite with mud. Dr. Alan Greene, pediatrician and prolific health writer, suggests that some natural anti-inflammatory remedies such evening primrose oil may also help reduce the swelling and itching associated with mosquito bites.
These are some of the steps you can take in the hours immediately after a bite. But remember, if you start feeling sick in the days ahead, particularly if you feel flu-like symptoms that include neck stiffness, headache, nausea and fever, then it's possible that mosquito bite left you with something worse than just an itch. Go to the doctor. Period!
But Wait... Why Not Just Prevent Mosquito Bites?
The best way to treat a mosquito bite really is to avoid getting bitten in the first place. Simple as it sounds, this can be a real challenge, especially during the summer or in warm climates.
Obviously, you'll want to avoid the places where mosquitoes tend to congregate – which is anywhere near water.
If you don't have to be around swamps, marshes, rivers, canals, lakes and ponds, then don't. Otherwise, at least get clear of the water from dusk until a few hours after dark, when the bugs are out hunting for blood meals.
Unless you take certain precautions, you may also have to abandon your own backyard during the evening hours, so you'll need to do some work on your environment:
Get rid of any standing water around the yard because it will become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Keep the grass and bushes trimmed so they don't have resting places. Make sure all your windows have screens, and that they are in good shape, and consider screening in the back porch or deck.
Install a mosquito control device, such as a mosquito trap that uses light, gas emissions and heat to emulate a mosquito's human targets. The traps attract the mosquitoes, then kill them before they get to you. You can use these devices in conjunction with citronella candles that are reported to repel mosquitoes and subdued lighting or yellow outdoor bulbs that aren't as likely to draw hungry insects.
When you do go outside, try to keep as much of your skin covered as possible, and avoid bright colors that will attract the attention of mosquitoes. Use an insect repellent containing DEET on the bare areas.
Dr. Greene also recommends vitamin B1 (25 to 50 milligrams three times a day) or garlic to produce a skin odor that is supposed to naturally repel mosquitoes. It takes about two weeks of regular doses for the B1 to become effective, he says.
The bottom line is, there's just no way to guarantee that you'll never feel the sting of a mosquito feeding on your blood. The occasional mosquito bite is inevitable, and that's how it is. But there's no reason you have to suffer.
Hopefully, you can use some of these tips to get a little relief when it happens.
The Annual Mosquito Massacre...in your hometown
The next time you go outside to fight mosquitoes, know this: You aren't alone. No matter where you live, chances are there's a local mosquito control program trying to reduce the spread of disease and improve quality of life by targeting the insects.
You've probably seen them rolling through the neighborhood in the mosquito control truck, or maybe flying overheard a few hundred feet off the ground, trailing a foul-smelling fog that kills mosquitoes and gives everyone a few hours' peace.
But mosquito spray is a last resort, and what most people see is only a small part of a community's overall mosquito control plan.
They're usually county-wide operations that run from late spring to early fall – year-round if you live somewhere warm – testing for infected mosquitoes, cleaning up their breeding grounds, and pinpointing their habitats so that crews can methodically eliminate them by the thousands.
Most local programs will even come out to your house and give you a hand if you're having a particular mosquito problem. Trouble is, these programs, which you help fund, by the way, can't get rid of every mosquito in every neighborhood. They can only help cut down on the population. And they can't do it without plenty of cooperation from the public. So, you still have to practice some DIY mosquito control of your own, especially if you don't want bugs fleeing the official exterminators only to settle in your yard.
Where Does Mosquito Control Start?
Professional mosquito hunters have taken to calling their programs IMM, for integrated mosquito management. That means they no longer just go out once a week, spray a few areas with insecticide, and call it a job well done. These days, effective mosquito control programs target four key areas:
Surveillance – The regular trapping and testing of mosquitoes to find out what species are causing problems, how many there are, and whether any of the mosquitoes are carrying West Nile virus, malaria, or some other disease they can transmit to people.
Source reduction – Cleaning up stagnant ponds, managing stormwater drainage systems, and digging ditches around marshy areas to help cut down on the number of places where mosquitoes can actually lay and hatch eggs. This includes getting people to dump the myriad containers around their yards that can serve as mosquito breeding grounds.
Larvacide – Finding ways, both biological and chemical, to kill mosquitoes while they are still in the larval stage living in water. This could mean putting bacteria or oil in the water to poison the larvae, or introducing natural predators to feed on them.
Adulticide – The method of last resort, using mosquito spray to kill large numbers of adults as they fly and feed. Crews release insecticides from planes and trucks over targeted areas at specific times so they can get as many as possible in one shot. Helps to eliminate females before they have a chance to lay eggs. Also a necessity after storms cause heavy flooding because huge swarms will soon follow.
None of the methods are effective by themselves, but have to be combined to attack every stage of the mosquito life cycle. Otherwise, no matter how many bugs the crews killed, there would be millions more waiting to take their place.
The Mosquito Stakeout
The first step in fixing a problem is figuring out what it is. Obviously mosquitoes are the problem, but mosquito control crews need to know more than that. They also have to identify specifically which ones are causing the trouble and where.
There are more than 150 species of mosquitoes in the United States, and while some are known to be potential health hazards – like the Anopheles mosquito, a malaria, carrier – a species that may be considered a nuisance in one community may not even show up in another.
Meanwhile, new construction, weather patterns, effective control methods, or any number of other factors can shift mosquito populations around so that one part of a county has a problem one year, and another part the next.
Of course, people tend to call their local mosquito control programs with complaints when they're having trouble with the bloodsuckers, so that's one way for crews to pinpoint the hot spots. Another way is to count mosquitoes in certain areas.
That method is simpler than it sounds. A mosquito control worker goes outside, say near a salt marsh, either early in the morning or right before dark, and lets mosquitoes land on him. The “landing rate” is how many mosquitoes light on him in a minute's time.
Mosquito control officials usually set a certain threshold that will justify breaking out the mosquito spray. For example, in Maryland, crews can spray if the landing rate is one or more mosquitoes per minute in a tested area.
But probably the most common method of mosquito surveillance is the mosquito trap.
The New Jersey Light Trap is pretty much what it sounds like: A light that attracts mosquitoes and a fan that sucks them into a container. Others are similar to the commercial mosquito traps you see on the market for home use, utilizing carbon dioxide or other attractants that mimic the human body.
The idea is to draw in female mosquitoes – males do not bite – so their numbers can be counted and their bodies tested for malaria parasites or viral encephalitis.
Surveillance results also can be used to produce maps that will help mosquito managers locate likely breeding areas that may be ripe for landscaping changes or chemical or biological controls.
Ounce Of Mosquito Prevention vs. Pound Of Cure
Common sense says it's easier to keep mosquitoes from breeding in the first place than it is to hunt down and kill the little suckers once they're flying around.
That's why local mosquito control programs spend so much time on source reduction. The idea is to shrink the number of places the mosquitoes can actually lay and hatch eggs, so that there are fewer created in each cycle.
Every year, about the start of mosquito season, you'll begin seeing the stories in the newspapers and on TV. There will be some county official urging you to clear out all standing water from your backyard, whether that means dumping out buckets, turning over wheelbarrows, or picking up the kids' toys.
They do this because any stagnant water that stands for at least a week or so can become a good spot for mosquitoes to lay eggs that will develop into larvae and, eventually, adults. For the same reason, mosquito control programs will also work with other public agencies to clean up discarded containers such as cans and cut the tall grass on the sides of roads.
Tires are a big one, by the way. Every community tosses out thousands of used tires every year, and they all have to go somewhere. Leave them outside, forgotten, and the insides will collect water and become as good as a swamp for housing mosquitoes.
Aside from clean-up, there is drainage.
Mosquito control checks stormwater systems to make sure the water flows properly and doesn't get backed up anywhere, and also coordinates the digging of ditches that help drain flood-prone land and marshy areas. Lakes and retention ponds are cleared of vegetation and blockages to allow in as much fresh water as possible.
The idea is simple, but it works.
Wiping Out The Baby Mosquitoes
No matter what anyone does, mosquitoes are still going to lay millions of eggs, and they are still going to hatch into mosquito larvae. One way or another, mosquito control programs have to find ways to kill as many of those larvae as they can before the wigglers grow into adults.
A favorite of mosquito control officials is the gambusia, known as the mosquitofish. It is an easy-to-breed North American native about two inches long that feeds mainly on mosquito larvae.
The gambusia are resilient and can live in stagnant water with little oxygen, eating algae if they must, so they are frequently used in swampy or marshy areas and in retention ponds or other small isolated bodies of water.
In a study in New Jersey, just 35 fish released into a stagnant, mosquito-infested swimming pool grew to several hundred fish and completely cleaned out the larvae of two species within a matter of months.
However, mosquito control crews have to be careful where they place the mosquitofish because they are predatory and will eat the young of frogs and other fish.
Meanwhile, some towns in Maine have been working with another mosquito predator since the early '70s.
Each spring, the Chamber of Commerce in Wells, Main, situated near thousands of acres of salt marshes, starts taking orders for dragonfly nymphs – or larvae – from town residents. The developing dragonflies cost about $30 per 50, and people order thousands of them.
The nymphs are released into local freshwater ponds. There, they feed on mosquito larvae, and after developing into adulthood, begin to hunt adult mosquitoes.
While there have been no studies proving the dragonflies are effective, locals swear they have seen major reductions in the mosquito populations, and other nearby towns have adopted are turning to the same method.
But when natural means aren't enough, there are always larvacides.
The most popular is a bacteria used to poison the mosquito larvae, or wigglers. Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (Bti), grown using fish meal or soy flour as a base, produces proteins that turn into toxins in a larva's stomach.
Bti is made in pellet and liquid form, although pellets seem to be preferred by most mosquito control programs. They can be seeded into a breeding site, such as a pond, or dropped from an aircraft. The bacteria is not harmful to wildlife, fish, or people.
Less favored are larvicidal oils, which are sprayed over the surface of the water. Wigglers must breathe oxygen, so they near the surface and use breathing tubes to breach and draw in air. The oils can either be poisonous, killing the wigglers after being inhaled, or be used simply to suffocate the wigglers by preventing them from reaching oxygen.
Widespread Use Of Mosquito Spray
At some point, mosquito control will need to do some selective spraying to kill adult mosquitoes.
They've been tracking nuisance complaints and trapping mosquitoes, so they know where they are worst and when they are out feeding – typically at dawn and dusk.
That's when they will load up the truck, the helicopter, or the airplane and begin dropping insecticide on the areas with the biggest problems. The goal is to put the insecticide into the air, either in a fog or a very light mist, and let it drift through target, killing mosquitoes as it passes and for a few hours after.
One of the most commonly used mosquito insecticides is permethrin, a synthetic form of a natural pesticide made from the chrysanthemum plant. It kills mosquitoes by disrupting their central nervous systems.
Mosquito control officials have to be careful when, where, and how often they use mosquito spray for three reasons.
One, poisons such as permethrin are also toxic to fish, honeybees and other unintended targets. Two, overuse of pesticides has caused some mosquitoes to develop a resistance. And three, the idea of poisons drifting through the air scares people.
However, when mosquitoes are thick, there aren't many other ways to kill them quickly, reducing the number of bites and possible infections. It's a balancing act that mosquito control crews have to do every season.
Put it all together, and that's the way a community practices effective mosquito control – by trying to keep mosquitoes out of the air in the first place, and by attacking them wisely when they're on the move.
Just remember, you have to make sure you take the same approach around your own house, or their efforts, and your tax dollars, go to waste. Plus, you will probably find yourself playing host to some very unwelcome refugees.
Mega-Catch™ Mosquito Traps should be used in conjunction with other sensible control measures designed to manage mosquito problems. DIY mosquito control should include the following precautions:
Eliminate standing water in low spots, ditches, gutters and similar areas
Empty receptacles that collect water (eg bird baths and pot plant saucers)
Reduce breeding sites by keeping grass mown
Mosquito netting/screens can be used to provide mosquito-free areas
Light coloured clothing is less attractive to some mosquito species and if tightly woven, can give some protection against biting
DEET is considered the most effective mosquito repellent, but should not be used too heavily or on infants under 2 months. An alternative repellent Picaridin by Bayer, is an odorless and colorless repellent and has been recommended by the World Health Organization for use in Malaria stricken countries.
Mosquitoes are major contributors of several diseases throughout the world. Mosquitoes can pass along these diseases to humans by biting them. Only female mosquitoes bite to nourish their eggs and only certain species of mosquitoes carry diseases. The best defense is to become educated about these diseases and find ways to control the mosquito population.
Zika Virus (ZIKV)
In 2016, Zika virus began commanding worldwide attention because of an alarming connection between the virus and microcephaly - a birth defect that results in babies being born with abnormally small heads. The World Health Organization declared a global public health emergency on February 1, and on April 13 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the evidence was conclusive - the Zika virus causes a rare birth defect and other severe fetal abnormalities.
Transmitted by the aggressive daytime biting Aedes aegypti mosquito, Zika has now spread to 40 countries. There have also been several reported cases of transmission of the virus through sexual intercourse. World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan issued a statement to the effect: "reports and investigations in several countries strongly suggest that sexual transmission of the virus is more common than previously assumed."
Symptoms of the virus include a slight fever, rash, conjunctivitis, headaches, joint and muscle pain. Symptoms begin to show between 3 and 12 days however, the majority of those infected (80%) show no symptoms and don't even know they have the virus.
There is no vaccine or cure for the Zika virus, and the treatment plan for those infected is to get plenty of rest, drink fluids to stave off dehydration, and take pain and fever medications.
Dengue fever is found mostly in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean. However, it has made its way into the United States. In the summer of 2001 four people on the island of Maui in Hawaii contracted the disease. From 1977 to 1994, there have been 2,248 suspected cases of imported dengue fever reported in the United States.
The Aedes aegypti mosquito, which primarily feeds during the day, is a carrier of the Dengue fever virus. Symptoms of the disease begin four to seven days after being bit and include fever, painful headaches, eye, joint and muscle pain and a rash on the arms or legs. The disease is rarely fatal but occasionally progresses to dengue hemorrhagic fever a more serious illness with abnormal bleeding and very low blood pressure.
Chikungunya Fever (CHIKV)
Chikungunya is a viral illness spread human-to-human through the bite of a mosquito. The primary vector for chikungunya is the Aedes aegypti or yellow fever mosquito, although the Asian tiger mosquito is also a competent vector for the spread of Chikungunya.
Chikungunya was first discovered in Tanzania in 1952, but has since spread beyond Africa to nearly 40 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and also in the Americas. The name ‘chikungunya’ derives from a word in the Kimakonde language, meaning "to become contorted" and describes the stooped appearance of sufferers with joint pain.
The incubation period is usually 3-7 days and symptoms can include sudden fever, joint pain with or without swelling, chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, lower back pain, and a rash. The symptoms are similar to those of Dengue fever, but unlike some types of Dengue, people who have Chikungunya do not experience hemorrhage (bleeding) or go into shock. There is no vaccine for chikungunya and no cure. Management of the disease includes rest, fluids and medications to relieve the symptoms of fever and pain.
Probably one of the most widespread diseases that mosquitoes can carry is Malaria. According to the World Health Organization, malaria infects 300 to 500 million people every year in Africa, India, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Oceania, and Central and South America. Malaria has been around for thousands of years. The symptoms of malaria were described in ancient Chinese medical writings in 2700 BC. Malaria is etched in history as the construction of the Panama Canal was nearly halted because of it. In 1906, there were more than 26,000 employees working on the canal of these, more than 21,000 were hospitalized for malaria at some time.
Malaria is transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito. These mosquitoes primarily bite during the nighttime hours. Once infected, the symptoms include anemia, fever, chills, nausea, and flu-like illness and in severe cases coma and death.
Malaria kills between one and three million people worldwide each year. Since there is no vaccination for the disease and the Plasmodium parasite that causes malaria has become increasingly drug resistant scientists are beginning to look at a new way to combat the disease. Researchers are currently looking for a way to create a genetically altered Anopheles mosquito that would be resistant to the Plasmodium parasite.
West Nile Virus (WNV)
Probably one of the diseases that is of most concern for those living in the United States is the West Nile virus. The West Nile virus has actually been around for decades. The disease was first recognized in a woman in the West Nile District of Uganda in 1937, thus the origin of its name. There have been millions of cases of the disease reported from the Western Mediterranean and Africa through the Middle East. In 1996 the West Nile virus spread to Europe and in 1999 was found in New York City. Out of 62 confirmed cases in New York, seven deaths were reported. So far, West Nile virus has spread to 41 states and Washington D.C. One of the most common mosquitoes, the Culexspecies, is known to carry the West Nile virus. A person bitten by an infected Culex mosquito can contract the West Nile virus. The virus itself causes severe human meningitis or encephalitis, which is inflammation of the spinal cord and brain.
Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEEV)
Eastern equine encephalitis is as its name implies, primarily caused by a virus that infects horses. This mosquito-borne viral disease also infects humans and some species of birds. The virus received its name after a major outbreak occurred in horses in the coastal areas of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia in 1933. Additional outbreaks occurred in Virginia and North Carolina in 1934 and 1935. There have been approximately 220 confirmed human cases of Eastern equine encephalitis (EEEV) in the United States between 1964 and 2004. States with the largest number of cases are Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts and New Jersey.
Mosquitoes were first determined to be potential carriers of EEEV in 1934. Various mosquito species of AedesandCulex can transmit the virus to humans. EEEV transmission is most common in and around freshwater swamps in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast states and the Great Lakes region. Cases of human infection are less likely because the primary transmission occurs in swampy areas where the mosquitoes live, but most humans don’t. Once infected with the virus, many humans have no apparent symptoms. However, some develop symptoms ranging from mild flu-like to inflammation of the brain, coma and death.
Japanese Encephalitis Virus (JEV)
The Japanese encephalitis virus is a mosquito-borne virus, which can be potentially fatal to humans. The virus has spread throughout eastern Asia, including India, Japan, China and Southeast Asia. The virus has also cropped up in Australia in 1995.
The virus is transmitted through the Culex species of mosquito. Culex mosquitoes become infected by feeding on domestic pigs and wild birds infected with the Japanese encephalitis virus. Infected mosquitoes then transmit the Japanese encephalitis virus to humans and animals during the feeding process. Once infected a person might experience a mild infection with a fever with headache. More severe infection is marked by quick onset, headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, occasional convulsions and spastic paralysis.
La Crosse Encephalitis (LACV)
La Crosse encephalitis virus is transmitted by the Aedes species of mosquito. It occurs in the Appalachian and Midwestern regions of the United States. The virus was first discovered in La Crosse, Wisconsin in 1963. Since then the virus has been detected in several Midwestern and Mid-Atlantic states. There are usually 75 cases of La Crosse encephalitis reported to the Centers for Disease Control every year. Most cases occur in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Recently more cases have been reported in West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi.
Symptoms of the disease include nausea, headache, and vomiting. In more serious cases the symptoms can be seizures, coma, paralysis and permanent brain damage.
St. Louis Encephalitis (SLEV)
The St. Louis encephalitis virus is related to the Japanese encephalitis virus. This virus mostly affects the United States and occasional cases in Canada and Mexico. The origin of the virus began in 1933 when an encephalitis epidemic broke out in vicinity of St. Louis, Missouri. More than 1,000 cases were reported.
The virus is transmitted via the Culex mosquitoes that become infected by feeding on birds infected with the virus. Infected mosquitoes then transmit the virus to humans.
Symptoms of the virus include fever and headache and in more severe cases can cause headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions and spastic paralysis.
Western Equine Encephalitis (WEEV)
Western Equine Encephalitis is relatively uncommon. There have been less than 700 confirmed cases of the virus in the United States since 1964. The virus is seen primarily in states west of the Mississippi River and in some countries in South America.
The Culex mosquito transmits the virus. Once infected symptoms range from mild flu-like illness to encephalitis, coma and death.
Rift Valley Fever (RVFD)
Though primarily a virus that affects livestock, humans do contract Rift Valley Fever as well. The disease is usually found in Africa and the Middle East. There have been severe outbreaks of the disease. In Africa between 1977and 1978 several million people were infected and thousands died.
Humans can become infected from the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. Symptoms are usually mild and include fever, weakness, back pain, dizziness and weight loss. In rare cases it can lead to hemorrhagic fever syndrome or meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the brain).
Yellow fever is primarily found in African and South American countries. The yellow refers to the jaundice symptoms that affect some patients. Humans contract the disease from infected Aedes simpsaloi, Aedes africanus, and Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.
Although it’s not usually found in the United States, yellow fever has made its way here. A ship carrying people infected with the virus arrived in Norfolk, Virginia in 1855. The disease spread quickly eventually killing more than 3,000 people.
There is a vaccination available for yellow fever but as of 2001, the World Health Organization estimates that yellow fever causes 200,000 illnesses and 30,000 deaths in unvaccinated countries.
Another type of mosquito-borne disease that affects our furry, four-legged friends is heartworm disease. Dog heartworm disease can be a life-threatening disease for canines. Dogs and sometimes other animals such as cats, foxes and raccoons are infected with a type of roundworm through the bite of a mosquito carrying the larvae of the worm. Many common types of mosquitoes can carry the heartworm disease and the disease is found throughout the United States.
Once a dog is infected with the roundworm through a mosquito bite, the worms burrow into the skin and eventually end up in the canine’s heart. The cure for heartworm can be risky and expensive. However, it is preventable and there are several medications on the market for dogs.
Preventing Mosquito-Borne Diseases
Of all of the mosquito-borne diseases, the ones that occur within the borders of the United States are West Nile virus, eastern equine encephalitis, La Crosse encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis and western equine encephalitis. There are no vaccines for these diseases. Most of the other viruses that may have once appeared here are no longer around due to effective vaccinations.
One way to prevent the spread of these diseases is to get rid of the mosquito population. While eradicating all the mosquitoes in the world sounds like a good idea, it will never realistically happen. Therefore, taking protective measures against mosquitoes is the next best solution.
What’s the most dangerous creature on earth? Without question the answer is The Mosquito.
Mosquitoes and the diseases they spread have been responsible for killing more people than all the wars in history. There are over 175 species in the U.S. and the most common, and most dangerous, are the various species in the Culex, Anopheles, and Aedes genera.
Aedes is a genus of mosquito originally found in tropical and subtropical zones, but now found on all continents excluding Antarctica. The genus contains over 700 species; the most medically significant of them being Aedes vexans, Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti. Aedes species typically bite at dawn and dusk.
Aedes Vexans is found in every state in the U.S. including Alaska and Hawaii. The species has a distribution in the continental USA that extends from southern Florida to Quebec, on the east coast, and from southern California to Alaska in the west. Aedes vexans is recognized as New Jersey’s most serious pest mosquito due to its abundance, widespread distribution and breeding potential in floodwater habitats. They are described as West Nile virus bridge vectors; meaning they can transmit the virus from the bird population to humans. During the day they will feed in shady areas, but are most active at dusk. Breeding sites include artificial containers, storm sewers, drainage ditches, marshes, streams, and a variety of other sites. The adults are known to fly great distances and are readily attracted to light.
Aedes albopictus, or Asian tiger mosquito, is currently the most invasive mosquito in the world. Introduced into the U.S. in the mid-80s through a shipment of used tires, it has now spread to more than 900 counties in 26 states in the continental USA, as well as Hawaii. It is of medical importance due to its aggressive and persistent daytime human-biting behavior and ability to vector many diseases, including Dengue, La Crosse, Chikungunya and West Nile virus. Aedes albopictus is an opportunistic biter, which will bite as often during broad daylight as it will at dusk. It has a preference for humans over animals, typically approaching at ankle level and working its way up the body. During the day it can be found in shady areas where it rests in shrubs near the ground. The Asian Tiger Mosquito is more aggressive than the Yellow Fever mosquito and has a bite that results in considerably more irritation.
Aedes aegypti or Yellow fever mosquito is the primary vector of Dengue, Chikungunya, Zika virus and Yellow Fever. Aedes aegypti is an aggressive daytime biter - most active during daylight and for approximately two hours after sunrise and several hours before sunset. An indoor/outdoor pest, the mosquito will happily rest inside closets, under chairs and other dark places. Outside, they rest where it is cool and shaded. Highly resilient and difficult to control, Aedes aegypti is extremely adaptable and past efforts to eradicate this species from the U.S have failed. Their eggs can withstand desiccation (drying out) surviving in containers without water for several months. Egg hatching subsequently occurs following rainfall or the addition of water to those containers harboring eggs.
Culex mosquitoes are painful and persistent biters. They prefer to attack at dusk and after dark, and readily enter dwellings for blood meals. They are generally weak fliers and do not move far from home.
Culex pipiens, also known as the northern house mosquito, is the most widely distributed mosquito in the world and is found on every continent except Antarctica. They breed in a variety of water containers, don’t travel far from their breeding sites and are often found around the home. They are known vectors of West Nile virus (WNV), Eastern and Western Equine Encephalitis and Heart-worm in dogs. Most active at night, Culex pipiensprefer to attack at dusk and after dark.
Culex tarsalis is the most important mosquito vector of arboviruses in western North America, responsible for the transmission of St. Louis and Western Equine Encephalitis viruses. Culex tarsalis inhabits large tracts of territory between northern Mexico and southern Canada, spreading from the Pacific to the Atlantic coast. It is most commonly seen in California, at elevations ranging as high as 3000 meters.Culex tarsalis is most active in the few hours after sunset feeding on both bird and mammal hosts. These mosquitoes find hosts by detecting the sweat and carbon dioxide exhaled by mammals or birds. During the daytime, adults can be found resting in shaded areas such as tree cavities and animal burrows.
Culex restuans is considered a vector of St. Louis Encephalitis (SLE) and West Nile Virus (WNV). They will breed in water that ranges from clear to grossly polluted and are found in a wide variety of aquatic habitats including ditches, streams, woodland pools as well as artificial containers. While some experts consider the mosquito to be a bird feeder that rarely, if ever, bites humans, others have described the species as a significant pest with an annoying bite.
The Anopheles mosquito is known universally as the Malaria Mosquito because it is considered the primary vector of the disease. However, of the approximately 430 Anopheles species, only 30-40 transmit malaria and many of them have become resistant to insecticides through years of pesticide use. It is also considered a transmitter of heart worm in dogs. Anopheles home-in on human body odors; from the carbon dioxide in our breath to the ammonia in our sweaty feet
Anopheles quadrimaculatus is the chief carrier of malaria in the eastern, central and southern U.S. While Culex mosquitoes can breed and thrive in stagnant or polluted water, the Anopheles mosquitoes prefer to lay eggs in permanent pools of water with vegetation, such as ponds, lakes and swamps. Active principally at night, they are vicious biters who prefer large mammals and humans, and attack after dusk.
Anopheles freeborni the Western malaria mosquito, is found in western Canada and in the United States. This species is the principal malaria vector in the arid and semiarid western U.S. (Carpenter and LaCasse 1955). They are more active at dusk and during the night but occasionally do attack man during the daylight hours in dense shade or on cloudy days.
Ochlerotatus mosquitoes are among the first groups of mosquitoes to appear each season. They are painful and persistent biters, attacking during daylight hours (not at night). They do not enter dwellings, and they prefer to bite mammals like humans. Ochlerotatus mosquitoes are strong fliers and are known to fly many miles from their breeding sources.
Ochlerotatus triseriatus; known as the Eastern Tree Hole mosquito, is one of 36 known species that can transmit the West Nile virus and is the primary vector of La Crosse Encephalitis virus. In the U.S. it is widely distributed east of the Rocky Mountains and inhabits all of the Southeastern States. This species is typically considered a troublesome biter in wooded areas and will readily attack humans anytime of the day.
Ochlerotatus canadensis; common in late spring and summer this fierce biter prefers humans and other mammals. Larvae are abundant in late spring and found occasionally during the summer in woodland pools, swamp borders and grassy hummock areas. This long-lived mosquito is the primary suspect in the transmission of heartworm to dogs and a possible suspect in the transmission of EEEV from birds to humans.
Culiseta mosquitoes are moderately aggressive biters, attacking in the evening hours or in shade during the day. In summer, the most common breeding area for these mosquitoes is backyard fishponds.
Culiseta melanura favors acid water and is normally found in acid bogs with a pH of 5.0 or lower. Two primary habitats for this species are found in New Jersey. Culiseta melanura is a mosquito species that is not attracted to mammals and feeds almost entirely on birds. The mosquito is responsible for maintaining EEEV in bird populations and plays a significant vector role in that regard. Culiseta melanura initiates the infection in bird populations; other mosquito vectors (i.e. Coquillettidia perturbans) is responsible for equine and human cases.
A genus of large, mostly yellow, viciously biting, fresh-water mosquitoes.
Coquillettidia perturbans is a vector for Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEEV) in North America. It is a night biter but will bite in the shade during the day if disturbed. A strong flier, it will fly several kilometers in search of a host. This species is found more commonly in the eastern and southern states, but is also present in small numbers in the Great Plains, Rocky Mountain States and along the Pacific coast.
AMCA Webinar (Online Seminar) – January 21, 2009
Presented by Dr Janet McAllister currently employed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Ft. Collins with the Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases conducting field and laboratory research on important vectors of West Nile Virus concentrating on their control and insecticide resistance.
An Integrated Mosquito Management Program (“IMMP”) is part of a wider concept called Integrated Pest Management (“IPM”) which has been around for decades. There are multiple definitions of an IPM which can be confusing but at its simplest, IPM is:
“The optimization of pest control in an economically and ecologically sound manner.”
Dr McAllister emphasized the importance of all districts/counties/states taking responsibility for any issues there are with pest control in their area. This can only be done with the public taking some responsibility and advising the appropriate agency of the issues they are experiencing.
Effective IMMP programs are made up of the following:
Surveillance - Capturing and testing of the species to find out what you are dealing with. There are many species of mosquito which may require different control methods.
Source Reduction - A mosquito problem in your yard can most often be attributed to a bigger problem in your neighborhood. Identifying those areas is very important. For example:
Storm water retention drains that have gathered rubbish and may be blocked causing stagnant water is perfect for mosquitoes to breed in
Rubbish/sanitation issues possibly causing water retention could be in a backyard or a landfill.
Green pools. Dr McAllister commented that given the housing market slump this is particularly bad in the South and West at present.
Larvacide – using both biological and chemical ways to treat a mosquito problem while at the aquatic stage of augmentation.
Adulticide – using chemical sprayers to kill the adult mosquitoes before they have a chance to breed.
Control measures identified by Dr McAllister were:
Physical – cleaning storm water drains that may be contaminated and ensuring that water doesn’t remain stagnant. If there is ditching in your area that these are checked by the county to ensure there is no contamination which could cause a build up of stagnant water.
Legal Action – There are local, state and federal laws in place that allow fines to be imposed on those who may be contributing to any pest control issues. If no action is being taken to clean up a yard, you can consult an attorney for advice.
Larvacide – At the aquatic stage of the breeding cycle we can control the augmentation of mosquitoes. The use of predator fish such as minnows or nematodes (parasitic worm) can be helpful but there would need to be consideration given to any permits that are required and also the high cost of rearing such species.
Chemical – Dr McAllister emphasized that chemicals used in spraying/fogging play a very important part in the IMMP and can sometimes be the only way to deal with a mosquito problem such as after a hurricane.
Dr McAllister also commented on the need for the public to be aware and play their part in an IMMP. Should you notice anything that could be adding to the mosquito problems in your area (e.g. water buildup in ditching or storm water drain contamination) it is most important that you notify the relevant authorities so they can inspect and attempt to treat the area. She also emphasized that it is important to take precautions by using products that are available for the domestic market today such as repellants and possibly mosquito traps.