VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Beach Public Works Mosquito Control Bureau has begun its summer attack on mosquito populations throughout the city.
Every year, crews treat in an effort to keep the mosquito population under control and combat diseases transmitted by mosquitoes including West Nile virus, Eastern equine encephalitis, Chikungunya virus, malaria – and new to this year’s watch list – the Zika virus.
Officials are working closely with the Virginia Beach Department of Public Health to monitor mosquito activities and keep the public informed.
“Although most people will have mild or no symptoms if they contract these diseases, some individuals can become very ill and have long-term side effects,” said Dr. Heidi Kulberg, District Director. “The Zika virus has captured headlines recently due to its association with birth defects in babies whose mother acquired the virus during pregnancy.”
Officials say that preventing the Zika virus from spreading in the community will prove to be a big challenge.
In Virginia Beach, the Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes species mosquito, specifically the Asian Tiger. This species is primarily active during the day. It uses standing water in containers, such as potted plant trays and bird baths, as its habitat. It takes one week from the time an egg is laid until an adult mosquito emerges. This species does not fly far and usually remains within 200 yards of its habitat.
Officials say the most effective way to keep the Zika virus and all other mosquito borne illnesses out of Virginia Beach will be to “tip and toss” the standing water in all containers at least once a week and eliminate any other standing water in their back yards and community.
There are many steps you can take to prevent or limit mosquito activity and the transmission of diseases:
- Turn over or remove containers in your yard where rainwater collects, such as potted plant trays, buckets, or toys.
- Empty bird baths once a week.
- Remove old tires from your yard.
- Clean roof gutters and downspout screens.
- Eliminate standing water on flat roofs, boats, and tarps.
- Clear obstructions in ditches so they flow and drain. Fill in puddles with soil, or a mixture of sand and gravel, or dig drainage ditches to drain puddles.
- If puddles or ditches cannot be drained or filled in, treat standing water with mosquito larvicides (dunks or granules) that can be purchased at any hardware store.
People who spend a lot of time outdoors should also take precautions to avoid mosquito bites, including:
- Wear long, loose, light-colored clothing, long sleeves and a hat.
- Use an appropriate insect repellent and follow label instructions.
The Mosquito Control Bureau adds a second layer of protection by larviciding and adulticiding.
Larviciding is the destruction of immature mosquitoes found in standing water. Crews are larviciding when they go to known breeding sites throughout the city and treat standing water with materials that destroy the water-borne stages of mosquitoes. Officials say this method of mosquito control kills insects before they get the chance to mature, fly and begin biting.
In a typical season, crews will treat about 1,000 acres of standing water to kill mosquitoes before they ever get the chance to fly and bite.
Adulticiding is the process night-time personnel go through when they apply pesticides from machines mounted in pickup trucks in areas where there are large populations of adult mosquitoes. This is likely an activity you recognize as it receives the most notoriety and attention from the public. However, it’s a late-stage effort to control adult mosquitoes that manage to escape the larviciding treatments.
Throughout a single summer season, the Bureau’s personnel will perform adulticiding treatments on between 500,000 and 700,000 acres throughout the city.
From November through April, crews provide ditch maintenance services. These efforts reduce the amount of standing water available to mosquitoes for egg laying and maturing. This process does not involve any chemicals and is considered to be a more permanent form of mosquito control.
Mosquito Control also has a biology lab that plays an important role in the city’s efforts by testing mosquitoes and sentinel chicken blood for diseases carried by mosquitoes.
If you’d like to request services from the Mosquito Control Bureau, call 757-385-1470 and identify your control request or mosquito problem.
To learn more about the Zika virus, visit the Virginia Department of Health’s website.
Click here to find additional information about mosquito control, prevention steps, disease information, videos and fact sheets at the Virginia Department of Health’s website.