OLEAN — A wet spring, followed by warm summer weather with yet more than its share of rain is spawning a bumper crop of mosquito larvae that are turning into adult mosquitoes.
Dr. Kevin Watkins, the Cattaraugus County public health director, said the Health Department hasn’t been getting a lot of complaints of mosquitoes — yet.
But Health Department summer interns are finding larger numbers of mosquito larvae in the breeding pools they check across the Allegheny River Valley, Watkins said.
Some — but not all — of the mosquito traps set out in areas with traditionally high numbers of adult mosquitoes are showing high numbers as well, Watkins said.
Those mosquitoes are collected and sorted by species for shipment to Albany, where the state Health Department laboratory will test the species for possible carriers of arbovirus such as West Nile virus, Zika virus and eastern equine encephalitis (EEE).
So far this year, those arbovirus markers have not shown up in samples submitted by the county Health Department.
“When we started surveillance in late May, the numbers were very low,” Watkins said Wednesday. “Since the deluge of rain we’ve been getting, we’re seeing an increase in the number of larvae in pools of water we survey. We’ve also seen an increase in the number of adults in traps.”
The largest numbers of mosquito larvae and adults are found in Gargoyle Park and Birch Run in Allegany, Watkins said.
“We have not had a lot of reports to the department of adult mosquitoes,” he said. “With the increased amount of rain, we should expect there will be a large number of mosquitoes that will develop into adulthood.”
That’s when they will be looking for a blood meal; maybe yours.
Watkins said the Health Department does not spray for nuisance mosquitoes. If pools of mosquitoes capable of carrying West Nile, Zika and EEE viruses, county health officials would evaluate spraying protocols.
The ground surveys by the Health Department and results of testing of mosquitoes capable of carrying the viruses help determine whether there will be any aerial spraying. It will also determine what type of spraying — larvicide or adulticide — could be sprayed.
Larvicide will keep mosquito larvae in breeding pools from developing into adults, while tiny droplets of insecticide have to hit adult mosquitoes to kill them.
While the high numbers of mosquito larvae and adults is high in some of the surveillance sites, it’s not enough to trigger any spraying yet. The county has budgeted funds for spraying if deemed necessary and communities along the Allegheny River Valley would share in those expenses.
Watkins said residents can help keep the number of adult mosquitoes around their homes down by following a few simple steps.
“It’s important to survey around your home where there can be pools of water mosquitoes can breed in such as pottery, tires, rain barrels and swimming pool covers that can trap rainwater, “ Watkins said. He recommends removing or emptying items that can hold water and become a breeding area for mosquitoes.
“We will continue our surveillance and send pools of mosquitoes to Albany for testing,” Watkins said. West Nile virus is the number one virus they are looking for as well as EEE and Zika.
“There are a number of things people can do to protect themselves and their family, especially children,” Watkins said.
Knowing that mosquitoes are more active at dawn and dusk, “use a DEET spray prior to going outdoors,” Watkins advised. Spray clothes and skin, using some on your hands to get on your neck and head. Be careful not to touch eyes or the mouth area with a bug spray containing DEET.
“We’re still collecting numbers of mosquitoes in traps and they are starting to increase in some areas, Watkins said. “If you are going outside you should protect yourself,” he advised.