With close to 18-hundred square miles, Harris County Mosquito Control operates year round in its effort to keep the mosquito population bearable. Calls increase as the combination of rain and hot weather makes for a prime breeding environment. Director Doctor Rudy Bueno says May is the start of mosquito trapping in some 268 areas of the county.
“We collect the mosquitoes, we bring them back over here to our laboratories for identification and for testing. What we respond to in normal type of situations is, if we find disease-bearing mosquitoes, that is, mosquitoes that are carrying West Nile virus, St. Louis Encephalitis, if we find those disease-bearing mosquitoes in our collections, then what we’ll do is spray the affected area. And that’s our standard protocol for the next several months ahead.”
A lot of trapping is conducted because it gives Mosquito Control a heads up on what to expect for the season. Areas notorious for trapping disease-carrying mosquitoes are the inner loop, the northeast and northwest parts of the county. Dr. Bueno says a coordinated spraying effort is done on land and in the air.
“It’s a lot easier to use a ground treatment but, when we get into those real large tracts of land where it’s woody, and where there’s limited road accessibility, the plane certainly is a lot more efficient.”
Regardless of the weather, storm drains are excellent for the breeding of mosquitoes carrying the West Nile Virus. Rains help to flush out the population to a point, but Dr. Bueno says they conduct a lot of testing in them.
“About 50-percent of the traps that we use are actually placed in storm drains, and we collect mosquitoes from storm drains because, in the past, at least it’s been very very hot, as far as disease activity is concerned.”
There are over 50-kinds of mosquitoes collected and tested. Those carrying disease often bite Blue Jays and Crows. Once they die it gives
officials a specific area in which to spray. Female mosquitoes live longer than males, and those carrying West Nile can lay up to 200-eggs. Bueno says we’re now entering the time of year where breeding conditions are perfect.
“The temperatures are warming up. So, we have that time of year where the virus can actually reproduce inside the mosquito, or inside the bird, at a much faster rate. And so, transmission starts to increase.”
He says residents can do their part to control the spread like eliminate standing water and keep lawns mowed regularly. If you venture outdoors wear protective clothing and use insect repellent containing DEET. More detailed information can be found at www.hcphes.org.
Pat Hernandez, KUHF…Houston Public Radio News.