[This week we welcome guest blogger, Dillon Stewart, associate editor of our sister publication, Landscape Management. What follows is part 2 of this 2-part post.]
What does a pest management professional do to prevent it?
Unfortunately, pest management professionals cannot eliminate the spread of a disease like Zika — but they can help prevent it. The first and most important step is managing that expectation with the client.
“When a client hires a firm, the initial expectation is that they will have no more mosquitoes, no more bites, and that’s really difficult to do because when we’re dealing with mosquito control it’s in an outdoor environment,” says Jim Fredricks, Ph.D., vice president of technical and regulatory affairs for NPMA. “Mosquitoes are mobile and can certainly fly into a yard and bite your client.”
He advises pest management professionals to discuss their ability to reduce mosquito populations and reduce the number of bites they receive on their properties.
On the job site, it’s the pest control professional’s job to inspect the property, says Dennis Jenkins, president of ABC Home & Commercial Services in Lewisville, Texas. The biggest thing to look for is standing water, in which Aedes larvae breed. Up to a ½ inch of water—which can be found inside tires, tree holes, pails, plastic jugs, clogged gutters, birdbaths, catch basins, children’s toys, abandoned pools and flowerpots— can be incubators for Aedes in someone’s yard.
When a potential breeding site is located, check the site to see if larvae are present. Aedes will often rest near the top of the water. If it’s tough to tell if larvae are present in stagnant water, extracting samples of the water with a dropper can help improve the view.
Next come the pesticides. Standing water that cannot be eliminated can be treated with an appropriately labeled larvacide, such as Methoprene or Bacillus thuringiensis, says Fredricks. Check with your state for licensing requirements to apply these products.
“Aedes mosquitoes live near their preferred food source—us,” Jenkins says. “They have adapted to live in our environment, so treatment must focus on the areas where they live and rest.” His company uses “an adulticide with a good residual.”
Fredricks agrees with that choice and suggests applications be done with a backpack blower, which produces large droplets of 150 millimeters to 200 millimeters. These droplets treat the interior of the plant architecture and deliver product to the locations where the mosquitoes are resting, according to Fredricks.
What can homeowners do to prevent it?
This question and the previous one go hand in hand because mosquito control is a team effort, Jenkins says.
“Customer cooperation is vital to the success of the program,” says Jenkins. “Without cooperation, unreasonable expectations will not only cause customer dissatisfaction, it will increase the liability for you and increase the likelihood that diseases will be vectored in the customer’s environment.”
Like the professional, the first thing the homeowner can do is eliminate breeding grounds around his or her property. It’s not “one and done,” as Jenkins says. Both parties must constantly monitor potential breeding grounds. Unseen breeding grounds are also less likely to form if the homeowner runs a fan outdoors to keep air moving.
The customer’s biggest responsibility is to try not to get bitten. Aedes mosquitoes typically only travel 100 meters or less, so control is hyperlocal.
Jenkins, who supplies clients with a document outlining control suggestions, says to consider wearing long-sleeve shirts, long pants and socks with shoes. Clothing also can be treated with preventive products, such as permethrin spray, which often lasts up to 10 washes. Even DEET mosquito repellents—which are also suggested by the EPA and CDC for reducing mosquito bites—go a long way in the fight to prevent Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses.
Photos: Mosquito Joe, National Pest Management Association