There are more than 20 different species of mosquitoes on Cayman Brac, but the Mosquito Research and Control Unit has suited up with methods to keep the blood sucking female goons at bay.
In an effort to bridge communications between the community, the team is making the public aware of products being used to control and combat the mossie population.
If you live on Cayman Brac, or any of the Cayman Islands chances are you have been bitten once with what some call those “nasty little critters”.
Mosquitoes are a challenging pest to conquer and can cause discomfort associated with swelling and itching.
Even though each of the species has a scientific name, such as aegyppti, some have “common names” such as saltwater marsh, Asian Tiger or just those darn mossies. The quick hand technique always works to kill a few.
Only the females bite, sucking a blood meal to develop her eggs. The male mosquitoes feed only on plant juices.
Graduate research officer Danielle Ryan, speaking from an information booth set up at the Cayman Brac Agriculture Show, explained the team effort being carried out locally.
“Right now, we are focusing on survey and controlling the mosquitoes. This involves using light traps and over traps, which specifically targets the aegypti, originally found in tropical and subtropical zones,” she said. “To control the mosquitoes we are heading out into the communities and checking for mosquito lava in standing water; visiting the port to check and spray containers with nonfood items shipped to the island, fogging during the rainy season, spraying homes with huge infestation and putting chemicals in standing water to kill the larvae.”
All mosquitoes must have water to complete their life cycle.
They seek out places that hold water such as ponds, irrigated pasture and saltwater marshes, which are popular with the aedes paeniorhynchus.
When it came to mosquitoes being more prevalent in certain areas on Cayman Brac, Ms Ryan’s opinion is that there are usually more mosquitoes in residential areas where people have lots of old containers lying around to collect water, which helps the mossies to breed.
The aegypti, she said, like these conditions and likes to breed close to residential areas. She advises people to turn over containers to halt breeding. Swamps are also an ideal breeding spot, she adds.
“Mosquitoes like to lay their eggs in swampy areas, therefore a higher population of mosquitoes will be found there,” she said.
MRCU Research Superintendent Floyd Banks has been with the department for 42 years.
He said there are not as many mosquitoes in Spot Bay as in West End because there are less swamps in Spot Bay.
“Spot Bay has few areas that are prone to flooding so there is less chance for mosquitoes to breed,” he said “Over the years the mosquito population has declined because of the methods being used.
In years gone by, before MRCU operated, mosquitoes were so thick that everyone had to walk with a smoke pan in hand. It was like the American Express slogan, ‘never leave home without it.’”
According to Mr. Banks, Cayman Brac mosquitoes were nothing compared to what people had to put with in Grand Cayman where cows were smothered and people had to be indoors before night fall.
But the relentless fight conducted by the MRCU throughout the years has seen the mosquito population dwindle quite a bit, he said.
“If people can do their part by keeping containers free from standing water, then they will be doing their part to help us combat the growth and population of the mosquitoes,” Ms Ryan said.
She told how the mosquito population expands when adults lay eggs.
“Depending on what genes it is, they can form little rafts on the surface of the water laying something like 200 to 300 eggs,” she said.
A raft of eggs looks like a speck of soot floating on the water.
A mosquito goes through four separate stages of its life cycle – egg, larva, pupa and adult.
The eggs can reach adulthood in about five days if conditions are right. Only the female mosquitoes bite humans to take blood.