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Mosquito population is larger this season

July 16, 2003|by JENNIFER SMITS

jennifers@herald-mail.com

The sting of the mosquito may come more frequently this summer because rainfall in May and June has created more areas for the insects to breed and grow.

"This has been a very rainy and wet year," said Sue duPont, spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

DuPont said that mosquito larvae mature in standing water, which is more abundant this year because of the above average rainfall. Mosquito eggs can lie dormant from previous seasons until standing water is present to provide a place for them to hatch and develop into adults, she said.

DuPont said that homeowners should eliminate standing water in their yards. She said it takes about a week for a mosquito to hatch and mature into an adult, so standing water in kiddie pools, pet dishes, watering cans, bird baths and anywhere else it collects should be emptied regularly.

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Robert Kessler, agricultural extension agent for Franklin County, Pa., said in cases where water has pooled and cannot easily be drained, there are products that help control the mosquito population.

He said a product called a "mosquito dunk" can be used. It contains bacillus thuringensis, which attacks and kills the mosquitoes in the "wiggler stage," before they mature to adulthood, he said. Mosquito dunks can be purchased in hardware and garden stores, Kessler said.

A natural predator will keep some mosquito populations down, Kessler said. Ponds and other water areas where fish live do not make good breeding grounds for mosquitoes, because the fish eat the insects, he said. Those water areas do not need to be treated, he said.

In addition to removing standing water from around their homes, duPont said people can protect themselves from mosquito bites by minimizing outdoor activity around dawn and dusk when mosquitos are most active, wearing long pants and long sleeves and using insect repellent.

The Maryland Department of Agriculture has a mosquito control program that works with communities to survey and trap mosquitoes, duPont said. Trapped mosquitoes are sent to a lab in Baltimore and tested to see if they are carrying diseases, she said.

Areas with large mosquito populations are treated with larvacides and areas may be sprayed if the adult population grows large enough, she said. In such a case, the community and the MDA split the cost of the spraying, she said.

According to the MDA mosquito control program Web site, the principal insecticide used for controlling adult mosquito populations is permethrin synergized with piperonyl butoxide.

Several communities in Washington County are part of the mosquito control program including Funkstown and Hancock, duPont said. Other communities will not be able to join this year because the increased number of mosquitoes has taxed the resources of the program, duPont said.

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