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Friday, March 22 , 2019, 7:38 am | Fair 44º

 
 
 
 

Post-Tea Fire Conditions a Ripe Breeding Ground for Mosquitoes

Mosquito and Vector Management District steps up campaign against public health threat.

The Tea Fire, which destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes in Montecito and Santa Barbara in November, has created a public health danger in the burn area. Many of the affected properties have swimming pools, hot tubs, ornamental water gardens or other water bodies that have turned into stagnant breeding grounds for mosquitoes. A single stagnant swimming pool can produce millions of mosquitoes that present a risk for West Nile Virus transmission as well as a nuisance. In warm weather, mosquitoes can grow from egg to adult in as little as 10 days.

In response, technicians with the Mosquito and Vector Management District of Santa Barbara County have been inspecting all affected properties within the Tea Fire burn area for disabled swimming pools and other possible mosquito-breeding sources. To date, 168 properties have been inspected, 28 of which have been found to have potential mosquito-breeding sources and have been treated.

Two techniques are utilized to treat large stagnant water sources. The preferred method is to plant mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) that will eat the mosquito larvae. These fish represent a noninvasive, environmentally conscious and sustainable means of mosquito control that eliminates or drastically reduces the need for chemical pesticides. The fish reproduce rapidly and remain on duty 24/7 to prevent mosquito breeding while reducing the need for repeated inspections and pesticide applications.

The second technique involves the application of Altosid, a low toxicity, target-specific pesticide that prevents mosquito larvae from maturing into flying adults. A time-release formulation of this material can prevent adult mosquito emergence for up to 150 days. Small mosquito-breeding sources such as buckets and flower pots are emptied and turned upside down, or stored in a manner that prevents them from re-filling with rain water.

The Mosquito and Vector Management District of Santa Barbara County invites residents to contact it if they identify or suspect a breeding source. Technicians will be dispatched to
inspect and, if necessary, treat the source at no cost. Please do not add bleach or other chemicals into water bodies that contain fish. Not only are these chemicals harmful to the environment, but they are ineffective at killing mosquito larvae. They will easily kill mosquitofish, however, thereby returning the pool to a mosquito-breeding source within days. In addition, please do not pump a stagnant swimming pool dry until it is ready to be put back into service. Without the weight of the water in the pool, ground water can push the pool out of the ground and damage it.

Residents can take a number of precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites and to help eliminate mosquito breeding:

» Avoid outdoor activity when mosquitoes are most active — from dusk until dawn.

» If outdoors, wear protective clothing and apply mosquito repellants according to label directions — those containing DEET, Picaridin, or Oil of lemon eucalyptus have been
proven to be the most effective.

» Ensure that door and window screens are secured and in good repair.

» Eliminate standing and stagnant water. Eggs are laid and immature mosquitoes develop in dirty pools or spas, ponds, bird baths, buckets, barrels, children’s toys, etc. Immature mosquitoes become biting adults in five to seven days.

» Free mosquito-eating fish are available to district residents for permanent water sources (ponds, animal watering troughs, large fountains) at the Mosquito and Vector Management District of Santa Barbara County office, 2450 Lillie Ave.

» Horse owners should contact their veterinarian to have horses vaccinated for West Nile Virus and to keep the vaccinations up to date.

» Contact the district immediately, at 805.969.5050, to report mosquito problems or green pools/spas.

Click here for more information on the Mosquito and Vector Management District of Santa Barbara County or call 805.969.5050.

David Pritchett is board chairman of the Mosquito and Vector Management District of Santa Barbara County.

 

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