SANDOWN – As many in the local area prepared to enjoy cookouts and fireworks over the Fourth of July weekend mosquitoes were set to enjoy the people.
And in Sandown and across the state, Dragon Mosquito Control spent the weekend catching and testing the insects and killing them when asked to.
President of Dragon, Sarah MacGregor, joked that there weren’t many holidays in her job; that really only the cold weather ones counted as such.
MacGregor and her crews have been busy for years trapping and testing Sandown’s mosquitoes, larvaciding their breeding sites and when called, spraying public areas to keep the adults down.
This spring and summer has seen skies relatively full of mosquitoes, explained MacGregor. The heavy snows set the insects up for a strong start, and they’ve kept up their breeding and biting since.
“We’re in the midst of a very buggy summer,” she remarked.
Even with the dry weather the region has experienced in recent weeks, the six leggeds are doing just fine.
Besides, some of those mosquitoes that experts are so concerned about, because they pass diseases between birds and humans, aren’t completely reliant on standing water. They live underground in tiny hollows, breeding in underground pools and they take their oxygen by piercing plant roots.
“They’re crafty,” explained MacGregor. “They’re a very difficult mosquito to control.”
But it’s important to try to keep standing water off your property whenever feasible, as there are a host of species that use even seemingly insignificant amounts of water to breed.
MacGregor has seen larvae in dog bowls, kiddie pools, old tires and even those small buckets of water people leave beside their pools to wash their feet off before entering.
One doesn’t need to empty them every day, but look to empty those containers a couple times a week, McGregor said.
The insects especially like dirty water. Whether it contains grass clippings or dirt or other detritus they’ll be found in there. Infants. are often 1/4 inch long brown worms that wriggle vigorously. If the water is disturbed or a shadow passes over it, they’ll wriggle down to the bottom to hide.
The type of mosquito that hangs out by the porch light, or which is heard at night buzzing about the room, is having a particularly fruitful year. MacGregor suggests keeping that porch light off, making sure screens are closed and sliding doors not left open.
While many species have shrunk or disappeared as human populations have increased, mosquitoes have thrived alongside people. They’ve benefited from human efforts such as building homes and moving into wetlands and swamps and interrupting the flow of water with our roads. Never mind all of the pools of water available during dry spells or the ready supply of food.
“We’ve made the problem much worse,” said MacGregor.
“We’ve created this monster.” It’s why a holiday like the Fourth of July is perfect for the mosquitoes. They know that when there’s light and heat and smoke there’s likely to be a large congregation of people, and so that’s where they head.
But other than simply being a nuisance for humans, mosquitoes can carry serious diseases like West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE). In fact, Vermont has already found its first mosquito carrying EEE. It’s very early in the season to find it, explained MacGregor.
EEE carries a high mortality rate for those who contract the serious encephalitis form of the illness. Symptoms, which usually occur four to 10 days after a person is bitten by an infected mosquito, may include high fever, severe headache, and sore throat. A stiff neck is also a symptom of the severe form of the disease, which can lead to seizures and coma, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The risks of contracting WNV from an infected mosquito are low. Generally, only mild, flu-like, or no symptoms at all result. But in some cases, WNV can cause meningitis and can be a serious threat to seniors, young children, and those with compromised immune systems. Illness resulting from WNV usually presents itself within three to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito
NH has only just started testing batches of trapped mosquitoes, Dragon sending on their first ones from Sandown at the end of last week. The state scaled back their testing in recent years. Usually those mosquitoes carrying WNV and EEE are first found in late July and August.
They are regularly found in town.
All mosquitoes don’t carry WNV and EEE, and even some those that carry it pose no immediate threat to humans.
Birds are the source of the disease for humans. While four primary types of mosquitoes can transmit it from bird to bird, the diseases only begin to cause problems for humans when the disease becomes prevalent in the birds, which are then fed on by “bridge vector” species that feed on both human and bird.
It is suggested by those that study the diseases and their carriers that people take all the necessary precautions before heading out of doors this time of year.