Effective Mosquito Management
in Your Neighborhood
On April 7, the World Health Organization (WHO) of the United Nations celebrated World Health Day. This year's theme was vector-borne diseases, i.e., diseases that are transmitted by mosquitoes, black flies, ticks, and other biting invertebrates. The diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, such as malaria, yellow fever, West Nile virus, and dengue fever, continue to cause great suffering in many parts of the world, and efforts should always be made to reduce the incidence of insect-borne disease. However, fear of disease can lead to inflated concern over the presence of mosquitoes. Many mosquito species don't feed on humans -- preferring birds or other animals instead -- and those that do are often "nuisance biters" and do not transmit disease. In addition, the presence of a vector species in an area does not automatically equate with disease risk; the pathogens must be present and able to be picked up by a female mosquito and transmitted to a new host.  

Unfortunately, unfounded fear of disease, often fueled by media hype, can result in extensive spraying campaigns that are not only ineffective at controlling mosquitoes but harmful to water quality and wildlife. The insecticides most commonly used against adult mosquitoes are organophosphates and pyrethroids, which severely impact nontarget invertebrates, fish, amphibians, and birds.

When a mosquito outbreak occurs, blame is often placed on local ponds and wetlands, and spraying plans are set in motion. But the source is often much closer to home, in the stagnant water in old tires, blocked gutters, and neglected wading pools and pet dishes. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the WHO recommend a variety of techniques for successful and cost-effective mosquito management, including removing standing water around the home and yard; wearing protective clothing and insect repellant; and repairing window screens to exclude mosquitoes from the home.

Insecticides are often the default method of control in many cities and counties. You can become involved in changing how mosquitoes are managed in your community with the help of Xerces' new booklet, How to Help your Community Create an Effective Mosquito Management Plan. This guide helps you understand the basics about mosquito ecology and disease and outlines ways to influence local decision-making that help protect both human health and the environment.

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