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How to reduce mosquito populations

Malaria Prevention
Posted at 11:29 PM, Jul 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-21 23:29:26-04

We are in the season when mosquitoes thrive.

Not only are they pesky insects because they leave you with itchy bumps, but they have the potential to spread disease.
USDA Research Entomologist Seth Gibson shares why we've likely seen a few cases of Malaria in the U.S. so far.
"What these local transmitted cases of malaria tell me is that it indicates that there's more connectivity in the world," Gibson said. "People are moving back and forth around the world very rapidly. You might visit a malaria endemic region and easily be back in the U.S. before you even know that you're sick, and that's true for many other mosquito-borne pathogens besides malaria."

The cases of malaria recently seen in the U.S. popped up in Florida and Texas. The cases arose independently, and considering the people who had malaria hadn't traveled to a place where it's prevalent, that means they got it from a mosquito that bit another person who had malaria and passed it onto them.

Gibson says malaria was endemic in the U.S. until the 1950s. What helped it decline in this country was heavy pesticide use, and air conditioning sparked a cultural revolution which made people spend more time indoors.

Nonprofit Climate Central recently released a report that says the number of mosquito days (those with hot and humid conditions mosquitoes crave) has been growing in number the past few decades.

So unfortunately, mosquitoes are here to stay. However, there are things we can do around our house to reduce their population.

"Reduce mosquito habitat around your home, which consists of eliminating standing water, whatever that may be," Gibson said. "And you have to really think about it and be creative and think about where there's standing water, where you might not even realize it's there. For instance, in sprinkler heads, discarded appliances, old tires, even a tarp that's not stretched properly, and it's been sitting in your yard a long time and has a little puddle of water in it that can produce a lot of mosquitoes."

If you have standing water you can't get rid of, like a ditch behind your home, Gibson says you can buy mosquito dunks at your local hardware store. It has an ingredient that makes it so when eggs are laid in the water, those eggs never mature.

There are also large-scale efforts to reduce mosquito populations. Local mosquito control districts are working on plant-based essential oil pesticides that are safer for the environment, safer for people and might reduce the likelihood of a mosquito species becoming resistant.

Gibson says his team of researchers is also working on affordable methods to spread sterile mosquitoes into the environment so they cannot reproduce.