Robins team encourages mosquito awareness, education

  • Published
  • By Jenny Gordon
  • Robins Public Affairs
The life of a mosquito is simple - to siphon blood and reproduce.

At Robins, the 78th Civil Engineer Group's Entomology Shop (pest control), 78th Medical Group's Public Health Office, and Bob Sargent, the installation natural resources manager and wildlife biologist, work to help control the local mosquito population.

With numerous cases of the mosquito-borne disease West Nile Virus in several states, public education and awareness are especially important priorities here.

Everyone should take precautions to minimize exposure to mosquitoes.

First and foremost, standing water around the home should be eliminated as it creates a breeding ground for mosquitoes. While kiddie pools, birdbaths and the like are popular outdoor features, they should be emptied every few days.

"It doesn't take much water," said Mansur Cooper, 78th Civil Engineer Squadron pest management foreman. "Stagnant pools of water are where mosquitoes lay their eggs."

Gutters around the house should also be cleaned regularly, outdoor porch screens should be fixed to minimize risk of allowing mosquitoes into the home, and most important, pay attention to when mosquitoes are out and about the most - in the hours just after sunset until shortly after sunrise.

Be aware of the four "Ds," explained Cooper. Including 'dusk to dawn precautions,' we should pay attention to our 'dress,' use 'DEET' as a repellent, and 'drain' standing outdoor water.

Those things can't be stressed enough, as mosquitoes have been known to carry and transmit a multitude of diseases, including encephalitis, dengue and yellow fever, and malaria. Most of those diseases are quite rare in the U.S., so there's no need to be alarmed. However, you should be cautious.

In the Robins area, there are three main categories of mosquitoes: Culex (which carries West Nile), Aedes and Anopheles.

Mosquitoes develop through four stages: from eggs to larva called "wrigglers," to pupa called "tumblers," to adults. They can go from eggs to adults in as little as three to four weeks, and may live from two weeks to two months.

"Most adult insects exist solely to reproduce, so they generally have short life spans," said Sargent. From spring through fall, the base Public Health Office sets mosquito traps at designated locations across the base - generally twice a week depending on the weather. They count the number of insects present to determine if spraying is needed in the immediate area.

The specially-designed traps produce carbon dioxide from dry ice during overnight hours, mimicking human exhalations, which attracts mosquitoes. If mosquito counts exceed a threshold, then spraying begins. Treatments involving insecticides are used as a last resort, and used in small quantities only in areas where insect numbers exceed threshold counts. Modern insecticides are derived from natural products and are much safer than those used decades ago.

Alternatives to spraying include improving the drainage of ditches, encouraging the establishment of fish species which eat insect larva and bats that eat adult insects, and placing Summit briquets, which contain an environmentally-safe bacteria called "Bti," in waterways where mosquitoes lay eggs. Bti breaks down the digestive tract of mosquito larva.

The team urges people who have no alternative but to exercise outdoors during the early evening or morning hours to be mindful of how they dress and pay attention to where they run or walk. If possible, keep to the more populated areas of the base, avoiding areas adjacent to the wetlands and swamps where there are standing pools of water. Breezy weather is also another good time to exercise, as there is little to no mosquito activity.

While mosquitoes can be a nuisance, they are also an important part of the food chain. We can peacefully coexist by educating ourselves and practicing safe habits.