We all know the one thing that literally sucks this time of year — especially after heavy rain — and that is the maddening mosquito and its bloody biting.
You probably know this from all the itchin’, dodgin’ and scratchin’ you’ve been up to these days — unless you’re one of the fortunate few for whom mosquitoes look your way and say, “Pass!”
Here’s some of what you should know about mosquitoes and how to deal with getting bit or, better yet, avoiding the sting.
What are the counties doing?
Miami-Dade, Broward and the Florida Keys already are on their regular missions to help reduce the skeeters.
Florida Keys Mosquito Control started applying granular larvicide — Btia soil bacteria/larvicide that kills larvae before they can grow into adult mosquitoes, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Broward County Mosquito Control Section mobilized on June 8, after “the unusual amount of rain from last week’s storm” to start spraying VectoBac WDG larvicide to reduce the development of mosquitoes, such as the aggressive Aedes aegypti.
According to Broward, the aegypti mosquitoes are more likely than albopictus mosquitoes to spread Zika, dengue, chikungunya and other viruses.
Broward will spend two weeks between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am using truck-mounted sprayers in areas of Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Dania Beach and unincorporated areas of Broward.
“Data for treatment is gathered from our year-round network of mosquito traps — which tells us the density and type of mosquitoes, collection of larvae, inspections and feedback from municipalities and residents,” said Adriana Toro, acting director for the Broward County Highway Bridge Maintenance Division, the department that handles mosquito control for Broward.
Miami-Dade Mosquito Control Operations Manager Isik Unlu told the Miami Herald the county is monitoring areas that flooded after the recent storm.
“We have over 300 traps throughout Miami-Dade County and we monitor mosquito populations. When adult numbers go up we have protocols in place to reduce the adult numbers immediately and then treat the water sources creating the mosquito problem,” she said.
Miami-Dade, like Monroe County, is using the Bti pesticide and spraying via trucks. The most recent sprays in the predawn hours of June 10 tackled more than 25 regions. Among the areas, numerous streets in Aventura, Hialeah, Miami, El Portal, Little Haiti, Little River, North Miami Beach, Miami Beach, Sunny Isles Beach and Wynwood, according to a post on Facebook.
The division’s Facebook and Twitter social media pages via @305mosquito can let you know where spraying is happening and often posts tips.
What you can do to reduce the mosquito population
▪ Drain and Cover. That’s Miami-Dade’s favorite saying. Because it works. Unli offers several more tips.
“Drain standing water that may be in any containers in your backyard every five to seven days because it takes mosquitoes only seven days to complete their life cycle from egg to adults,” Unlu said.
Don’t forget to drain the rain gutters, children’s toys, used tires, buckets, tarps and rain barrels that you may have in your yard, Toro said.
▪ Don’t overlook the bromeliads if you have these plants, or others like them, in your garden. Bromeliad leaves, because of their shape, can hold water like little pools and prove popular breeding sites for mosquitoes.
Try to tip the water out. Miami-Dade suggests flushing the water with larvae off the plant with a good hosing at least once a week to disrupt the mosquitoes’ life cycle. A little coating of food-grade oil, like non-stick cooking spray, via a few drops in the water, could coat the surface and keep any remaining mosquito larvae from breathing.
Over-the-counter larvicides such as Bti are safe for plants and around people and pets when used as directed, according to the counties. These products can be found in pellet or granule form and can be applied about every one to two weeks or so.
You can get these commercial larvicide products in the garden area of local hardware stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot.
▪ Bleach or use over-the-counter Bti dunks can be used to treat containers that cannot be drained.
▪ Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
▪ Insect repellents. Unlu suggests using Environmental Protection Agency-registered repellents with one of the following active ingredients: DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, oil of lemon eucalyptus.
The popular OFF! brand is available with DEET and also plant-based ingredients. The company recently released a seven-day mosquito forecast chart, OFF!Castwhere you can type in your ZIP Code to see how active mosquitoes are going to be in your area.
Not surprisingly, South Florida is as red as a sunburn on the OFF!Cast forecast, meaning “severe.”
How to treat a mosquito bite
▪ ice packs can ease the itching.
▪ An allergic reaction? See your doctor.
“Most of the time rashes caused by mosquito bites go away on its own,” Unli said.
Can mosquitoes spread COVID-19?
What diseases should concern us?
No locally acquired Zika fever cases (associated with encephalitis) have been reported in Florida since 2017, said Toro.
“Currently, the main concerns are related to West Nile, Eastern equine encephalitis, and Dengue viruses.”
Why do mosquitoes bite some people but not others?
Yes, some of us get bit far less often than others, but we’re not bragging. We can’t control our genetics.
Yes, that is one factor, according to ongoing studies, WebMD notes.
Scientists say that “genetics account for a whopping 85% of our susceptibility to mosquito bites. They’ve also identified certain elements of our body chemistry that, when found in excess on the skin’s surface, make mosquitoes swarm closer,” according to WebMD.
“People with high concentrations of steroids or cholesterol on their skin surface attract mosquitoes,” Jerry Butler, professor emeritus at the University of Florida, told WebMD. That doesn’t mean if you have high overall cholesterol you’re necessarily a buffet for skeeters. It’s just some people process cholesterol in a way that doesn’t tip mosquitoes off.
At University of Florida lab study in 2011, found that 20% of people are highly susceptible to mosquito bites, NBC News reported.
Florida’s Lee County Mosquito Control District also pointed to a study in a controlled setting that said certain blood types may be more attractive to mosquitoes.
“Mosquitoes landed on people with Type O blood nearly twice as often as those with Type A. People with Type B blood fell somewhere in the middle of this itchy spectrum, Lee County experts noted.
“Additionally, based on other genes, about 85% of people secrete a chemical signal through their skin that indicates which blood type they have, while 15% do not, and mosquitoes are also more attracted to secretors than nonsecretors regardless of which type they are .”
Mosquitoes zoom in on us by smelling the carbon dioxide we breathe out. Naturally, we can’t hold our breath for long, but it seems larger people, adults, tend to get bit more than children.
According to Lee County, mosquitoes also smell lactic acid, uric acid, ammonia and other substances we shed when sweating and are also attracted to people with higher body temperatures. Remember that if you’re working outdoors.
“Some species, Aedes aegypti for example, prefer to bite around the ankle and are drawn to the smell of sweaty or smelly feet. In fact, some trap lures have been specifically designed to mimic odors produced by human skin,” Broward’s Toro said.
What you wear matters, too. Skeeters also rely on their eyes to find sources of blood and they will see you better in colors that stand out, like black, dark blue and red, Jonathan Day, a medical entomologist at the University of Florida, told NBC.
How to contact the counties
You can contact your county to request mosquito control services.
▪ In Miami-Dade: Call 311 or submit a service request inspection online.
▪ In Broward: Call 311 or through the online Mosquito Request Form.
▪ In Monroe: Call the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District at 305-292-7190 or fill out an online Service Request Form.
▪ In Palm Beach: Call 561-967-6480 or report mosquito activity online.
This story was originally published June 10, 2022 1:28 PM.