If you think you saw mosquitoes in your house or outside earlier this month, you were probably right. But with the diligent work of the Mosquito Research and Control Unit, the situation is mostly under control.
“They are the nuisance mosquitoes and although they are an annoyance they are not disease carriers,” said MRCU’s Angela Harris, senior research officer.
The early rain in May prevented MRCU from seeding the mosquitos’ grounds as scheduled.
“The early rains this year brought out high numbers of mosquitoes for a while – it’s not a record year, but the mosquito numbers are higher than average.” Ms Harris said.
The good news is that while there are 36 species of the pesky little critters, the majority of the mosquitoes on the Cayman Islands are harmless, with one exception being Aedes aegypti, the Dengue fever carrier.
MRCU workers are coming to the end of their aerial larviciding campaign on Grand Cayman. This is when pellets are put in the swamps to kill the larvae before they are able to hatch as fully biting adults. The campaign in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman is under way, weather permitting.
“If the rainy season persists as it has been, we can expect more mosquitoes, but of course the unit will do it’s very best to keep on top of it,” said Ms Harris. “We do everything we can to keep the Cayman Islands free from Dengue fever. Last year there were two cases of Dengue- one from a traveller returning from a trip to the Bahamas. It is a testament to the hard work and organisation of our department over the years that we are the only country among our Caribbean neighbours that does not have endemic Dengue. However this doesn’t mean it’s not possible that we will get it and we must remain vigilant. This is where the MRCU asks the public for help.”
The Dengue mosquito (Aedes aegypti) is a domestic mosquito that loves to be around people. It breeds close to homes in any standing water it can find – from tarps, to disused vehicles and boats. It’s favourite piece of junk are tyres, but a discarded can, bottle or coconut shell that holds water next time it rains is just as good. It is a misconception that this mosquito is only found in dirty yards. Whilst it loves junk, it will breed in clean rain water. So drums, bird baths, ornamentals such as conch shells and even animal bowls and troughs can also provide a home for breeding Dengue mosquitoes. Stored water should be fitted with screens and plant pots and animal bowls emptied out at least every seven days.
“Whilst we concentrate specifically on the swamp and Dengue mosquitoes (Aedes taeniorhynchus and Aedes aegypti), we also want to remind the public of the importance of preventing any kind of mosquito breeding. It is therefore important to check out septic tanks and sewage systems for any tiny holes that mosquitoes might get into. Any standing water left long enough can be a breeding ground,” Ms Harris said.
Deputy Premier and Minister responsible for MRCU Juliana Connor-Connolly appealed to the public to do its part in assisting MRCU.
“Inventory your backyard and dump out anything that has water in it, because that is an excellent breeding ground,” she advised.
She also stressed that the new purpose built facility at the airport will go a long way in assisting the unit with the aerial control of mosquitoes and provide a better maintenance provision for the departments two Turbo Thrush aircraft.
MRCU offers five strategies for mosquito control, including:
Tip: reduce standing water to eliminate possible mosquito breeding sites, including those in children’s sandboxes, wagons or plastic toys.
Toss: Dispose of trash correctly; bottles, cans and fast food containers provide an excellent breeding ground if thrown in the bush.
Turn: Turn over larger yard items that could hold water like children’s portable sandboxes, plastic toys or wheelbarrows.
Remove tarps: If tarps stretched over firewood piles, boats or sports equipment and grills aren’t taut, they’re holding water.
Treat: Using a regular fly spray around the house, which will kill adult mosquitoes, for an evening spent outside use repellant containing ingredients such as deet and picaridin and cover up at peak biting times (dawn and dusk).
For more information on mosquito control the public is invited to go to www.mrcu.ky where they can find information on the Unit, spraying schedules and control methods employed.