NEWMAN - The district which conducts mosquito control operations on the western side of Stanislaus County will be taking a new approach in Newman next spring in light of the discovery of invasive mosquitoes in the community.
David Heft, general manager of the Turlock Mosquito Abatement District, updated the Newman City Council earlier this fall on district operations - a presentation which included reports on the invasive mosquito species discovered in Newman this summer.
The aedes aegypti mosquitoes are a health concern because the species can carry viruses such as Zika, Heft said, and are a nuisance because they are active in the daytime, live in close quarters with humans and are aggressive biters.
The diseases carried by the invasive mosquitoes are not present locally, Heft said, but could be introduced by people who are infected while traveling.
“When you have a mosquito here that can carry those diseases, all it takes is for somebody to come back infected and get bitten by one of these mosquitoes,” he explained.
They can pose a quality of life issue as well, as their populations can increase exponentially if left unchecked.
“They will quickly take over and build up to levels that are extremely irritating,” Heft remarked. “People won’t be able to sit out in their back yards or by the pool. These are out in the middle of the day and they are very aggressive.”
So far, Heft said, the invasive mosquitoes have been primarily been detected in Newman east of Highway 33, where they have turned up in numerous traps - but in low numbers.
“We have only collected one trap on the west side (of the highway), and that trap only had one mosquito,” he explained. “In all those traps, the most we have caught is four, which is a very low level. We want to try to keep it at that level. Once it gets out of the bag, they are getting 100 or 200 mosquitoes per trap.”
But fighting the invasive mosquitoes is a challenge because they are active when humans, bees and other animals are active.
Equipment similar to that currently used to fog neighborhoods through ground application will be used starting next spring, Heft told the council.
That device will deploy a small amount of microscopic droplets that will float in the air - and eventually settle into anything that might be holding water. The material is a bacteria found naturally in the soil, Heft noted.
That material contrasts from typical sprays in that the purpose is for it to settle to the ground and kill larva. The material used for native mosquitoes is designed to float in the air and kill adult mosquitoes as they fly, Heft noted.
“It is not as efficient, but it avoids us having to go from back yard to back yard, which we really don’t have the staff to do,” he said of the new approach to battling the invasive mosquitoes.
The two sprays do not have mutually exclusive benefits, Heft added, as that which will be used against the invasive species will also help keep native mosquito populations in check.
“It is not harmful to other animals, pets or people,” Heft stated. “It is something that we can put out that is not going to harm the environment or anybody.”
He said the district also plans to begin using drones to apply chemicals.
Mosquito control agencies are the only ones in the state authorized to use drones for such a purpose, he added.
“This allows us to be much more targeted and to get to areas that we can’t reach or are too small (to use aircraft for application). This is an important tool that we will be using in the future,” Heft stated. “If we have a small neighborhood that we wanted to treat, we could use the drone to fly at a low level.”
As the winter months arrive, Heft said, the district is shifting into preparation mode for next year’s campaign against mosquitoes - with the newly-discovered invasive species requiring a fresh strategy in the annual eradication efforts.