With the amount of wet weather Michigan experienced this spring, area residents may see an increase in mosquito activity, according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).
While generally considered annoying pests, mosquitoes could also be the cause of several serious illnesses since they are an ideal vector for some diseases, including West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), both of which can affect humans, birds, deer and horses.
Mosquitoes that feed on birds carrying West Nile or EEE can transmit the disease to horses and humans. Some birds are able to harbor the viruses without becoming acutely ill, thus serving as reservoirs for the diseases.
EEE, commonly known as sleeping sickness, is suspected of being the cause of 129 out of 133 horse deaths in 2010, at least 56 of which were laboratory confirmed. Meanwhile, WNV has been found in Michigan in past years and remains a serious threat.
“Michigan is home to 60 different species of mosquitoes, each of which are picky about who they feed on, as well as they have the potential to spread diseases such as West Nile Virus so consumers need to exercise precaution throughout the summer months,” stated MDARD Director Keith Creagh in a press release.
MDARD State Veterinarian Dr. Steven Halstead recommends vaccinating horses against the mosquito-borne illnesses.
“The viruses circulate in mosquito and bird populations throughout the spring and early summer, and gradually spill over to horses, and potentially to humans,” Halstead stated in a press release. “Owners should plan to vaccinate horses now to protect them against these diseases. Michigan typically sees an increase in the number of cases of EEE and WNV in late summer and early fall each year.”
Meanwhile, both humans and horses should avoid mosquitoes at their prime feeding hours of dusk and dawn.
Other precautions to take to thwart mosquitoes this summer include:
• Considering the use of non-chemical means to prevent biting, such as screens, netting, long sleeves, closed shoes, and slacks;
• Using repellents sparingly. Low concentrations (10 percent or below) are effective and may be preferred in most situations. Start with a low-concentration product and reapply if necessary;
• If repellents are applied over a long period of time, alternating the repellent with one having another active ingredient.
• Eliminating breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
Adult female mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Typical areas include a salt-marsh, a lake, a puddle, a natural reservoir on a plant, or even a container such as a plastic bucket. Depending on the species, the temperature at which the egg hatches varies. However, normally warmer temperatures are required.
While there isn’t much you can do to discourage the laying of eggs along the shores of a lake or pond aside from using a biological controls such as Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (available at stores), eliminating any other reservoir of standing water around the house can help curb the amount of mosquito activity around the home.