Battling the Buzz
As everyone knows, mosquitoes are a common nuisance and have the potential of carrying illness such as the West Nile Virus and Zika. Luckily, the City of Plano’s Environmental Health Division gets an early start each year by deploying mosquito abatement initiatives beginning in early April - well before mosquito season even arrives. Below are some of the things that City of Plano is doing to help keep residents safe along with ways you can help protect yourself and your community.
What Is the City Doing To Combat Mosquitoes?
Some of the ways the City of Plano combats the mosquito population is by setting traps, larviciding standing water, releasing mosquito fish (a.k.a. Gambusia affinis), spraying wooded areas and performing targeted fumigations.
The City sets light traps with CO2 and gravid traps each week, as long as weather permits, from April until the end of October. One type of trap uses dry ice which contains CO2 to simulate a person’s breath to lure mosquitoes. The trap also contains a light source which further aids in attracting them. A gravid trap is another type that uses a liquid attractant and a fan to draw the mosquito into the trap. Traps are collected each week and sent off to be tested for mosquito-borne illness.
How Does the City Find Out About Positive Mosquito-borne Illness Cases?
Once the team collects the mosquito traps, they’re sent to the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) in Austin, Texas to be tested for mosquito-borne illness. If a mosquito does come back positive for infection, the TDSHS will notify the City. It typically takes about a week for the City to get the results of the traps.
How does the City determine which locations to larvicide?
The vector control team can look back at records to see which surveillance locations had higher numbers of mosquitoes in previous years. They also target areas that are known for having standing water such as low lying ditches, areas high in organic matter and areas near creeks and streams. Storms also produce puddles of water that can sit for long periods of time. Teams will larvicide these areas of stagnant water when they are at risk of becoming a breeding location. By larviciding these areas now, they hope to disrupt popular places that mosquitoes are likely to breed and hatch.
What Does the City Use to Larvicide?
The vector control team uses a larvicide called Natular, a green-friendly pesticide commonly used to control mosquito populations. In 2010, Natular earned the EPA Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award. This award recognizes outstanding chemical technologies that incorporate the principles of green chemistry into chemical design, manufacturing and use that achieve pollution prevention goals.
If necessary, vector control teams will use an Ultra Low Volume (ULV) fumigation method in a targeted location from where the infected mosquito was trapped since most mosquitoes don’t travel very far. A common question the City receives is: “Why don’t we just spray the entire city for mosquitoes?” We conduct spraying as a last resort for several reasons:
• Mosquitoes can develop resistance to the pesticide
• Non-target species can be affected (bees, etc.). We conduct spraying at night in order to minimize the risk, but it is still a risk.
• Considering the cost of the pesticide (about $200/gallon) and staff time involved, the Return on Investment (ROI) for spraying is not nearly as great as it is when we use larvacide or fish. Both of these methods allow us to attack the mosquitoes before they have a chance to breed.
• Spraying only affects the insects it actually encounters, which makes it a shotgun approach, so to speak. Wind or other environmental factors also greatly affect its efficacy. We use it in times of viral activity in order to get a “quick knockdown” of the mosquitoes, but not to control them. On the other hand, larvacide will last up to 120 days.
• Some mosquito species (the ones that carry Zika and Chikungunya) are not active at night. Rather, they are active during the day, which makes spraying activities nearly impossible.
What You Can Do
in light-colored long sleeves and pants when outside to keep skin covered. For extra protection, spray clothing with repellent.
yourself. Limit outdoor activity and apply repellent before going outside. DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) is an ingredient to look for in your insect repellent to help increase protection. This ingredient is known to provide defense against mosquitoes and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Other alternatives include organic products such as orange spray, eucalyptus or citronella. Follow label instructions and always wear repellent when outdoors.
standing water in your yard and neighborhood. Check for water in areas such as old tires, flower pots, rain gutters and bird baths. Keep swimming pools treated and circulated and rain gutters unclogged.
• Empty or get rid of cans, buckets, old tires, pots, plant saucers and other containers that hold water.
• Keep gutters clear of debris and standing water.
• Remove standing water around structures and from flat roofs.
• Change water in pet dishes daily.
• Rinse and scrub vases and other indoor water containers weekly.
• Change water in wading pools and bird baths several times a week.
• Maintain backyard pools or hot tubs.
• Cover trash containers.
• Water lawns and gardens carefully so water does not stand for several days.
• Screen rain barrels and openings to water tanks or cisterns.
• Treat front and back door areas of homes with residual insecticides if mosquitoes are abundant nearby.
• If mosquito problems persist, consider pesticide applications for vegetation around the home.
If you have questions or concerns, you may contact the City of Plano Environmental Health Department at firstname.lastname@example.org
or call 972-941-7143. To get notified about mosquito sprays in your neighborhood, visit Plano.gov/CityCall
to get alerts.