June 9, 2016
With the concerns about Zika virus all over the news, I decided to take a quick survey of my landscape to see if I had any mosquito-breeding containers in the yard.
I first checked my pile of nursery pots that I really should recycle; it looked good, all the pots were upside down and not collecting water. Then I checked my side yard where I store tools. Oops, my garden wagon had an inch of rainwater in it and I could see the squiggly little mosquito larva swimming around. I dumped the water and turned the wagon over so it wouldn't collect any more. Off to check the bird baths. They looked clean and I added fresh water to them as I do every other day. Last, I checked my bromeliad plantings. Remember, bromeliads are "containers" too. Using an old turkey baster I pulled the water out of a bromeliad cup and put it in a clear container. I could see mosquito larvae moving about. They were in both my Neoregelias and Aechmeas that I have planted in the yard. I blasted out the bromeliad cups with the jet of my hose.
Is this really enough, though? I want to keep the mosquito population as low as possible for my health and the health of my neighbors. Zika virus—like dengue and chikungunya viruses—is transmitted by mosquitos in the genus Aedes, like Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti. These mosquitos are considered "container mosquitos" because their larval development happens in small water-filled spaces like tree cavities, bromeliad leaf axils, and any small container that holds water.
Dr. Roxanne Connelly, our IFAS entomologist with the Florida Medical Entomology Lab in Vero Beach, recommends practicing Larva Source Management (LMS) by regularly scouting your landscape for possible water-gathering sites and eliminating them. Check your nursery pots and containers, and eliminate discarded tires, old paint cans, and the like.
For bromeliad plantings, regularly treating with the larvicide Bacillius thuringiensis israelensis (Bti) can be helpful. Bti comes in a granular form that can be sprinkled in the cups of the bromeliads. This product is safe for plants and animals and will last up to 3 weeks.
You will need to choose a method that works for you to keep mosquitos from developing in the small containers in your garden. For more information about figuring out mosquitos issues at your home, you can visit the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory website.
-- Wendy Wilber