Hampton battles foreign mosquito outbreak

Jordan Crawford | 7/3/2013, 3:48 p.m.

— The summer season brings warmer weather, longer days, fun times outdoors, and the chance to show off that carefully perfected beach bod. Another inevitable provision is the increased unwanted presence of airborne pests — bugs that is.

Mosquitos in particular are a great problem in Hampton and the Asian tiger mosquito has raised concern among residents and officials.

Indigenous to tropical and subtropical Southeast Asia, the species has invaded many countries within the past couple of decades due to the increased international transport of goods. These insects live around humans rather than in isolated wetlands and typically fly and feed during the day, dusk, and dawn allowing them to become significant pests in many communities.

To combat the spread and reproduction of saltmarsh and woodland mosquitos in the area, city officials are currently using an ultra-low volume spray.

Hampton’s Environmental Services Division is continuing to apply larvicides to areas with stagnant water such as roadside ditches, woodland pools, and curb drop inlets. The larvicide prevents mosquitos from reaching adulthood.

Chris DeHart, Hampton entomology team leader said, “Together, the spray and larvicide will help get rid of the indigenous species, but the Asian tiger mosquito, which feeds during the day and rests at night, is less susceptible to those daytime efforts. The Asian tiger mosquito takes only four days to complete its metamorphosis from egg to adult, and the female emerges ready to bite.”

The Journal of Genetic Virology says that the Asian tiger mosquito is known to transmit West Nile Virus, Yellow Fever virus, St. Louis encephalitis, dengue fever, and Chikungunya fever. Between 2005 and 2006, the mosquito was responsible for the Chikungunya epidemic on the French island La Réunion. An estimated 266,000 people were infected with the virus, and 248 people died from it.

Strains of the Chikungunya virus are so easily spread amongst Asian tiger mosquitos, that dispersal of the disease in other regions with the insect is feared. Asian tiger mosquitos are also transmitters of Dirofilaria immitis, a parasitic round worm that causes heartworm in dogs and cats.

Residents are also encouraged to aid in the mass extermination of the exotic vermin. With recent rains in mind, they are urged to remove water from any containers around their houses that might serve as breeding grounds for mosquitos. Areas to check include gutters, children’s toys, tires, bird baths, old pools, flower pots, rain barrels, outdoor pet bowls, unused fish ponds, ceramic landscape ornaments and anything else that may hold rain water.

If a container cannot be dumped, environmentally-safe bacterial larvicides are sold at hardware stores.

This past week was Virginia Mosquito Control Awareness Week. According to the Hampton Environmental Services team, Langley Air Force Base usually performs yearly aerial spraying. Due to federal spending cuts required by sequestration, it probably will not be done this year.

City officials are currently working on alternative methods to control the mosquito population. Residents should call 3-1-1 for any further information of help.