With most Athens area schools back in session, it may seem like summer is coming to a close. But peak summer mosquito season is just starting.
It’s rained quite a bit in Georgia recently, and mosquito larvae are everywhere.
Mosquitoes have already found items outside holding water. When it turns hot after this wet period, mosquito populations are going to flourish.
This is bad news for families who want to spend time outside after school and work.
The month between Aug. 15 and Sept. 15 is the peak period for West Nile virus transmission in Georgia, and this season may be more active than the past two years.
While Georgia hasn’t seen many cases of West Nile in the past few years, it’s never totally gone away. Today the virus is described by epidemiologists as “endemic” in Georgia, which basically means that it’s always present at low levels.
West Nile was initially found in New York City in 1999 and detected in Georgia in 2001. The virus peaked in Georgia with 117 human cases in 2012.
Only one out of five people exposed to the virus becomes ill, but those who do can develop very serious cases that involve encephalitis or meningitis. This summer, there have been seven cases of humans with West Nile in Georgia.
The best way to prevent mosquitoes and the spread of West Nile is to eliminate their habitat. Mosquito larvae and pupae require standing water to develop. Given our current rainy conditions, extreme diligence is required to eliminate standing water.
Now is the time to take action.
Mosquito larvae are everywhere. Dump standing water at least once a week. If standing water can’t be eliminated and you see mosquito larvae, commonly called “wigglers,” or mosquito pupae, commonly called “tumblers,” the site should be treated with an Environmental Protection Agency-approved larvicide or pupacide. Local garden centers or feed-and-seed stores typically carry these products.
It is also important to remember the best techniques to preventing mosquito bites. Light-colored, loose-fitting clothing provides a significant barrier. Exposed skin should be treated with an EPA-approved repellent
Children as young as 2 months old can be treated with DEET-based products, but always apply the repellent to the hands of an adult and then rub the repellent on the child’s exposed skin.
Thankfully, other mosquito-borne illnesses, like Zika, are not a problem in Georgia. Zika infections have decreased worldwide, and Georgia doesn’t have a significant population of the mosquito that transmits Zika.
(Elmer Gray is a Cooperative Extension entomologist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)