OUR POSITION: A killer throughout history, a pest here now.
In a new book, The Mosquito — A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator^p, the author Timothy C. Wineguard makes the claim that half the human population of all recorded time has died of mosquito-borne illness. That’s an estimated 52 billion people, if you’re counting.
Florida would never have developed into the Florida we see today if it hadn’t been for mosquito control. Thousands of people died here before state government first established a board of health to fight malaria and yellow fever. It wasn’t until the link between killer diseases and their insect carriers was discovered, more than a decade later, that large-scale swamp-draining and pesticide-spraying campaigns began.
Spraying is still the go-to method of mosquito eradication today. Wholesale swamp-draining, not, although mosquito control officials are always quick to recommend that homeowners drain off any breeding catch basin on their property: birdbaths, flower pots, plastic yard toys, tarps or old tires. Just last week came a press release with this message from the health department: “It only takes a bottle cap of water for some mosquitoes to breed and multiply.”
A bottle cap? That might seem a discouraging task to drain every ounce, especially if you’ve got beds of bromeliads and other plants that naturally catch rain water. But every little bit helps, which is why we pass the recommendation along. If everyone did their little bit, we’d be that much better off.
Mosquitoes fit into the ecosystem as a food source for bats, birds, dragonflies and fish. Other than that, they’re a huge negative: billions dead throughout history, and as many as 1 million a year dead annually in our world, according to estimates from the World Health Organization.
The high death toll comes primarily from malaria in Third World countries nowadays. In Florida, our concern is more with diseases such as Zika and West Nile Virus, but those remain concerns alone. Millions are spent by county mosquito control annually, and it’s rare to hear complaints about costs. We want effective mosquito control when they start biting. ASAP.
The rainy season is mosquito season, and the trucks and planes have been active. You can check out neighborhood spraying schedules on county websites. The sites should list or map recent sprays.
Note also that you can call in a request for help if mosquito activity picks up in your neighborhood. Past experience is that county mosquito control departments have been reasonably responsive to these health and nuisance complaints.
Other than that, it’s on us.
Again, try to remove water from containers your property — although that can be no small task with continual rains this time of year. Wear long sleeved-shirts and pants, especially if you’re out at dawn or dusk. Use spray; sprays with the chemical DEET work best.
Recognize also that female mosquitoes (the ones that bite) are attracted by perspiration and heavy breathing. Note also they seem to find alcohol in the bloodstream more attractive. In addition, certain blood groups more than others: Type O, primarily, and Type B.
Around here, mosquitoes are nuisances, not killers. Historically and globally, that’s a blessing.